Green Tea and Its Effects on Alzheimer’s

I often get boxes of green tea as a welcoming gift from visiting scientists. Occasionally, I sample these fine teas, however, a recent study makes me realize that perhaps I should be drinking more of it.

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MADC affiliate Dr. Mi Hee Lim and her colleagues recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that a flavonoid found in green tea, called ECGC, binds and changes the property of beta-amyloid, a toxic protein that accumulates in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

The question that guided Dr. Lim’s research was “Why does green tea extract have anti-amyloid properties?”

To answer her question, she used an array of biochemical and cell biological approaches. The outcome of Dr. Lim’s studies show that ECGC can bind beta-amyloid monomers (a protein by itself) and dimers (two proteins bound together), particularly when calcium or zinc is present. When ECGC and beta-amyloid bind together, beta-amyloid is less likely to form into the large, ordered fibrils that eventually comprise the brain plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid can take on many shapes, but ECGC seems to force the beta-amyloid into a single shape. More importantly, ECGC was able to reduce the toxicity of beta-amyloid in cells, suggesting that this single shape, or structure, may be less toxic than other forms of beta-amyloid.

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