Science & Technology

Souvenaid Appears to Stimulate Growth of New Synapses in Patients with Early Alzheimer’s

A graphic depicting a synapse, a connection between mind cells. Graphic: Christine Daniloff

Comprised of three naturally occurring dietary compounds, choline, uridine and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, a dietary complement often known as Souvenaid seems to stimulate progress of new synapses in sufferers with early Alzheimer’s.

A medical trial of an Alzheimer’s illness remedy developed at MIT has discovered that the nutrient cocktail can enhance reminiscence in sufferers with early Alzheimer’s. The outcomes affirm and broaden the findings of an earlier trial of the dietary complement, which is designed to promote new connections between mind cells.

Alzheimer’s sufferers step by step lose these connections, often known as synapses, main to reminiscence loss and different cognitive impairments. The complement combination, often known as Souvenaid, seems to stimulate progress of new synapses, says Richard Wurtman, a professor emeritus of mind and cognitive sciences at MIT who invented the nutrient combination.

“You need to enhance the numbers of synapses, not by slowing their degradation — although of course you’d love to try this too — however somewhat by growing the formation of the synapses,” Wurtman says.

To do this, Wurtman got here up with a mix of three naturally occurring dietary compounds: choline, uridine and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Choline will be discovered in meats, nuts and eggs, and omega-3 fatty acids are discovered in a range of sources, together with fish, eggs, flaxseed and meat from grass-fed animals. Uridine is produced by the liver and kidney, and is current in some meals as a element of RNA.

These vitamins are precursors to the lipid molecules that, alongside with particular proteins, make up brain-cell membranes, which type synapses. To be efficient, all three precursors have to be administered collectively.

Outcomes of the medical trial, performed in Europe, appear in the July 10 online edition of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The brand new findings are encouraging as a result of only a few medical trials have produced constant enchancment in Alzheimer’s sufferers, says Jeffrey Cummings, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Heart for Mind Well being.

“Reminiscence loss is the central attribute of Alzheimer’s, so one thing that improves reminiscence could be of nice curiosity,” says Cummings, who was not half of the analysis staff.

Plans for industrial launch of the complement usually are not finalized, in accordance to Nutricia, the corporate testing and advertising Souvenaid, however it should probably be out there in Europe first. Nutricia is the specialised well being care division of the meals firm Danone, often known as Dannon in the USA.

Making connections

Wurtman first got here up with the concept of concentrating on synapse loss to fight Alzheimer’s about 10 years in the past. In animal research, he confirmed that his dietary cocktail boosted the quantity of dendritic spines, or small outcroppings of neural membranes, discovered in mind cells. These spines are vital to type new synapses between neurons.

Following the profitable animal research, Philip Scheltens, director of the Alzheimer Heart at VU College Medical Heart in Amsterdam, led a medical trial in Europe involving 225 sufferers with gentle Alzheimer’s. The sufferers drank Souvenaid or a management beverage day by day for 3 months.

That examine, first reported in 2008, discovered that 40 % of sufferers who consumed the drink improved in a take a look at of verbal reminiscence, whereas 24 % of sufferers who acquired the management drink improved their efficiency.

The brand new examine, carried out in a number of European international locations and overseen by Scheltens as principal investigator, adopted 259 sufferers for six months. Patients, whether or not taking Souvenaid or a placebo, improved their verbal-memory efficiency for the primary three months, however the placebo sufferers deteriorated throughout the next three months, whereas the Souvenaid sufferers continued to enhance. For this trial, the researchers used extra complete reminiscence exams taken from the neuropsychological take a look at battery, usually used to assess Alzheimer’s sufferers in medical analysis.

Patients confirmed a really excessive compliance charge: About 97 % of the sufferers adopted the routine all through the examine, and no critical unwanted side effects have been seen.

Each medical trials have been sponsored by Nutricia. MIT has patented the combination of vitamins used in the examine, and Nutricia holds the unique license on the patent.

Mind patterns

Within the new examine, the researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure how sufferers’ brain-activity patterns modified all through the examine. They discovered that because the trial went on, the brains of sufferers receiving the dietary supplements began to shift from patterns typical of dementia to extra regular patterns. As a result of EEG patterns mirror synaptic exercise, this means that synaptic perform elevated following remedy, the researchers say.

Patients coming into this examine have been in the early phases of Alzheimer’s illness, averaging round 25 on a scale of dementia that ranges from 1 to 30, with 30 being regular. A earlier trial discovered that the complement cocktail doesn’t work in sufferers with Alzheimer’s at a extra superior stage. This is sensible, Wurtman says, as a result of sufferers with extra superior dementia have most likely already misplaced many neurons, to allow them to’t type new synapses.

A two-year trial involving sufferers who don’t have Alzheimer’s, however who’re beginning to present gentle cognitive impairment, is now underway. If the drink appears to assist, it could possibly be used in individuals who take a look at constructive for very early indicators of Alzheimer’s, earlier than signs seem, Wurtman says. Such exams, which embrace PET scanning of the hippocampus, are actually not often completed as a result of there aren’t any good Alzheimer’s remedies out there.

Picture: Christine Daniloff

Reprinted with permission of MIT News

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