AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Caffeine Boosts Enzyme That Could Protect Against Dementia

New analysis reveals 24 compounds that can help reduce impact of harmful proteins in the brain 

A study by Indiana University researchers has identified 24 compounds – including caffeine – with the potential to boost an enzyme in the brain shown to protect against dementia. The protective effect of the enzyme, called NMNAT2, was discovered last year through research conducted at IU Bloomington. “This work could help advance efforts to develop drugs that increase levels of this enzyme in the brain, creating a chemical ‘blockade’ against the debilitating effects of neurodegenerative disorders,” said Hui-Chen Lu, who led the study. Lu is a Gill Professor in the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, a part of the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences. Previously, Lu and colleagues found that NMNAT2 plays two roles in the brain: a protective function to guard neurons from stress and a “chaperone function” to combat misfolded proteins called tau, which accumulate in the brain as “plaques” due to aging. The study was the first to reveal the “chaperone function” in the enzyme.

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