Antioxidants prevent Parkinson's disease
Vitamin E and other antioxidants protect damaged dopamine-producing nerve cells, thereby slowing down the effects of neurodegenerative diseases, researchers at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research have shown after experiments on fruit flies. According to Zhohua Zhang and his colleagues, this is particularly important when other protective mechanisms of the cells fail, as occurs in Parkinson's disease.
In humans, a product of the PINK1 gene protects against neuronal damage - if it fails, affected people develop symptoms of hereditary or sporadic Parkinson's disease more frequently. Zhang's team has now simulated this situation in an insect model by switching off the analogous gene dPINK1 in fruit flies through RNA inactivation. Significantly fewer dopaminergic neurons were then found in the brains of the affected animals. However, the neuronal cell death could be stopped both by the incorporation of the human variant of PINK1 and a diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, the researchers report. Apparently, protection by antioxidants in situations of increased oxidative stress prevents the breakdown of vulnerable neurons, conclude Zhang and co.
In Parkinson's disease, one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases of advanced age, dopamine-producing neurons increasingly die off. Since dopamine inhibits the activity of nerve cells in different areas of the brain, the loss of the transmitter leads to overstimulation of the brain regions and, in the long term, to the typical symptoms of the disease.