Sesame seed by-product protects against Parkinson's
Researchers at Osaka City University (OCU) have found that the chemical sesaminol, naturally occurring in sesame seeds, protects against Parkinson’s disease by preventing neuronal damage that decreases the production of dopamine. Their breakthrough has been published in the journal Heliyon.
Sesame oil, used by many for its nutty aroma and high burn-point, is made by extracting the fatty oils from sesame seeds, with the empty shells thrown out as waste. OCU researchers discovered that a chemical called sesaminol, abundant in this waste, has protective effects against Parkinson’s disease.
“Currently there is no preventive medicine for Parkinson’s disease; we only have coping treatments,” said OCU Associate Professor Akiko Kojima-Yuasa. She and her research group undertook a series of experiments to understand the effects of sesaminol on in vitro and in vivo Parkinson’s disease models.
Parkinson’s disease is caused when certain neurons in the brain involved with movement break down or die due in part to a situation called oxidative stress, due to an imbalance between antioxidants and reactive oxygen species (ROS). The team found in cell-based in vitro experiments that sesaminol protected against neuronal damage by promoting the translocation of Nrf2, a protein involved in the response to oxidative stress, and by reducing the production of intracellular ROS.
In vivo experiments brought the team equally promising results. The impairment of movement due to Parkinson’s disease is the result of damaged neurons producing less dopamine than is naturally needed. The team showed that mice with Parkinson’s disease models show this lack of dopamine production. However, after feeding the mice a diet containing sesaminol for 36 days, the researchers saw an increase in dopamine levels. Alongside this, a rotarod performance test revealed a significant increase in motor performance and intestinal motor function.
The team are now ready to take their work to the clinical trial phase and connect the consumption/production chain in a way that “prevents diseases with natural foods to greatly promote societal health”, Assoc Prof Kojima-Yuasa said.
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