Daily intake of green tea and an occasional glass of red wine may help reduce plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease, according to a study.
The researchers from Tufts University in the US found that two common compounds -- green tea catechins and resveratrol, found in red wine and other foods -- reduced the formation of plaques in neural cells with few or no side effects.
They tested 21 different compounds in Alzheimer's-afflicted neural cells in the lab, measuring the compounds' effect on the growth of sticky beta amyloid plaques. These plaques develop in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.
The researchers reported their findings in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
Finding a compound "that could diminish the plaques regardless of the virus component would be ideal, because that would show that regardless of the cause of Alzheimer's, you might still see some kind of improvement," said Dana Cairns, a research associate in the Kaplan Lab in the School of Engineering who led the research.
The initial screening was done in simpler models, and compounds that had a positive effect were then tested in the 3D neural tissue model.
That model is created using a non-reactive silk sponge seeded with human skin cells that, through genetic reprogramming, are converted into neural stem cell progenitors.
Those cells grow and populate the sponge, "which allows for 3D network formation of neurons similar to what you'd see in the human brain", Cairns noted.
The initial screen found five compounds had "really robust prevention of these plaques", Cairns said.
In addition to the green tea compounds and resveratrol, they also found curcumin from turmeric, the diabetic medication Metformin, and a compound called citicoline prevented plaques from forming and did not have antiviral effects.
"We hoped to find compounds that would be harmless and show some level of efficacy," she said.
Green tea compounds and resveratrol met that standard.
Green tea catechins -- molecules in the tea leaves that have an antioxidant effect -- have been explored as a potential treatment for cancers, and resveratrol has been tested for anti-aging properties.
Cairns, however, cautioned that seeing effects in the lab "doesn't always necessarily translate to what you might see in a patient".
Still, the discovery is significant because there is no cure for Alzheimer's or a way to prevent its progression, aside from several potential drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies that are still in trials, the researchers noted. (SJ/IANS)