Sugar Substitute’s Link to Parkinson’s

25 Jun

Researchers from the University of Tel Aviv, Israel, have found a connection between the use of mannitol sweetener and a decrease in the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Led by Professors Daniel Segal and Ehud Gazit, the research team discovered that the artificial sweetener prevents the forming of masses of alpha-synuclein proteins – associated with Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative brain diseases – in the brain.

For the study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the scientists initially analyzed the formation of alpha-synuclein clumps and their structural characteristics and after that, they started searching for compounds that would inhibit this development. They started testing the mannitol on the living brains of fruit flies, genetically engineered to carry human alpha-synuclein genes.

The research team tested the flies’ locomotive capabilities by assessing their ability to climb the walls of a test tube. Initially, only 38% of the flies carrying the human genes were able to climb up the test tube, compared to 72% of the control group of flies. For 27 days, the scientists supplemented with mannitol the food served to the genetically altered flies and at the end of the experiment, 70% of the gene-carrying flies were able to climb up the test tube. Further splitting the mutated flies into two groups – some fed with mannitol and some not – the research team discovered that there was a 70% decrease in the total masses of alpha-synuclein in the flies fed with mannitol.

To confirm the results, the two professors leading the study performed another experiment, on mice genetically engineered to produce alpha-synuclein proteins. Again, the scientist discovered that after four months, the mice fed with mannitol had significantly less alpha-synuclein proteins in their brains. Daniel Segal, one of the leading professors, expressed his enthusiasm concerning the artificial sweetener and its possible future implementations of reducing the risk or even treating Parkinson’s disease and noted that the compound has been approved already for use in clinical interventions and for use in a selection of foods.

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