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A natural dye obtained from lichens may combat Alzheimer's disease
Date:12/2/2011

A red dye derived from lichens that has been used for centuries to color fabrics and food appears to reduce the abundance of small toxic protein aggregates in Alzheimer's disease. The dye, a compound called orcein, and a related substance, called O4, bind preferentially to small amyloid aggregates that are considered to be toxic and cause neuronal dysfunction and memory impairment in Alzheimer's disease. O4 binding to small aggregates promotes their conversion into large, mature plaques which researchers assume to be largely non-toxic for neuronal cells. Further research with animal models is needed to determine whether this new approach by Dr. Jan Bieschke (Max Delbrck Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch), Dr. Martin Herbst (Charit Universittsmedizin Berlin) and Professor Erich Wanker (MDC) in Berlin, Germany, will be useful for therapy development (Nature Chemical Biology, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NCHEMBIO.719)*.

Protein misfolding is considered to be the cause of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and also Huntington's disease. In a multistep process, proteins misfold and accumulate into large extra- or intracellular plaques. Researchers assume that small misfolded protein aggregates that are precursors of mature plaques are toxic for nerve cells and are the reason why they are eventually destroyed.

Dye from the Canary Islands

The dye orcein is isolated from lichens that grow on the Canary Islands, among other places. Lichens have been used for centuries to color fabrics and food. Eight years ago Professor Wanker screened hundreds of natural compounds to find potential candidate drug molecules for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Among those substances he found orcein, a compound made up of about 14 small molecules. As these molecules might have different biological effects, the researchers in Berlin began to search for pure chemicals with simil
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Contact: Barbara Bachtler
bachtler@mdc-berlin.de
49-309-406-3896
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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