Researchers at the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center discovered that flavored ECGC, or epigallocatechi-3-gallate, found in green tea could bind to the toxic protein beta-amyloid and prevent its build-up.
When ECGC binds to the protein, it is able to change beta-amyloid’s properties. Dr. Mi Hee Lim, lead researcher of the study, found that ECGC bonded to the beta-amyloid best when either calcium or zinc is present, and upon binding, the proteins are less likely to form the plaques that grow in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. ECGC forced beta-amyloid to turn into a single shape, where normally the protein could assume almost any shape. The shape-change resulted in a protein that was less toxic; leading researchers to suggest that the shape it changed to was less toxic in nature.
In another study, researchers tested a mixture of ECGC and resveratrol, an extract from red wine, to see if it could prevent amyloid balls from binding to proteins on nerve cells, known as prions. Results from this test confirmed that the mixture had distorted the shape of the amyloid balls such that the amyloid balls were unable to bind to the prions.
A third study found that the ECGC within green tea could boost memory power. Researchers looked for the effect of ECGC within humans during MRIs that asked patients to perform memory stimulating tasks. The participants were each given milk-whey based soft drinks, but only some of them contained green tea extract. Results showed that those who had the green tea extract had a higher activity level in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, responsible for processing working memories. The researchers also found a dose-response, where higher doses of green tea would lead to more brain activity. Although these results hold promise, experts say that the doses were not high enough to be used for therapy. Still, a future is likely for further testing and development of ECGC forms in greater strengths to provide a greater range of opportunity for Alzheimer’s treatment.
1) Borgwardt S, Hammann F, Scheffler K, et al. Neural effects of green tea extract on dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. EJCN. 2012.
2) Hyung S, DeToma A, Brender J, et al. Insights into antiamyloidogenic properties of the green tea extract (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate toward metal-associated amyloid-β species. PNAS. 2013.
3) Rushworth J, Griffiths H, Watt N, et al. Prion Protein-Mediated Toxicity of Amyloid- β Oligomers Requires Lipid Rafts and the Transmembrane LRPI. The Journal of Biological
By Lauren Horne and Emma Henson
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