Posted on Nov 21, 2023, 6 p.m.
Around the world, millions of people are affected by neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s (PD), Huntington’s (HD), and Alzheimer’s (AD) disease, and the cost of caring for people living with these conditions costs hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
Researchers from the University of Texas-El Paso report in the journal Environmental Research discovering a potential solution in the most unusual material that is discarded in homes and offices from around the world every day: used coffee grounds. The research team found that caffeic-acid-based Carbon Quantum Dots (CACQDs) derived from used coffee grounds have the potential to protect brain cells from damage caused by several neurodegenerative diseases, if the condition is triggered by factors like age, obesity, and exposure to pesticides and other toxic environmental chemicals.
“Caffeic-acid-based Carbon Quantum Dots have the potential to be transformative in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders,” said Jyotish Kumar, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and overseen by Mahesh Narayan, Ph.D., a professor and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the same department. “This is because none of the current treatments resolve the diseases; they only help manage the symptoms. Our aim is to find a cure by addressing the atomic and molecular underpinnings that drive these conditions.”
Neurodegenerative diseases are primarily characterized by neuron loss (brain cells), which inhibits the ability to perform basic functions like speech and movement as well as more complicated tasks such as cognitive abilities, bowel function, and bladder function. When the disorders are in early stages and are caused by lifestyle or environmental factors they have several common traits, including elevated levels of harmful free radicals in the brain as well as the aggregation of fragments of amyloid-forming proteins that can lead to plaques or fibrils.
The team reports that they found CACQDs to be neuroprotective across test tube experiments, cell lines, and other models of PD when the disease was caused by paraquat pesticides. The team observed the CACQDs removing the free radicals or preventing them from causing damage, as well as inhibiting the aggregation of amyloid protein fragments without causing any significant side effects. Based on their results, the team hypothesizes that in the early stages of conditions such as HD, AD, and PD, a treatment based on CACQDS can be effective in preventing full on disease.
“It is critical to address these disorders before they reach the clinical stage,” Narayan said. “At that point, it is likely too late. Any current treatments that can address advanced symptoms of neurodegenerative disease are simply beyond the means of most people. Our aim is to come up with a solution that can prevent most cases of these conditions at a cost that is manageable for as many patients as possible.”
Narayan explains that caffeic acids belong to the polyphenol family of plant-based compounds known for antioxidant, free-radical scavenging properties. This compound is unique because it is able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier enabling it to exert the effects upon cells within the brain. Additionally, this process is also considered to be environmentally friendly green chemistry, and the sheer abundance of discarded coffee grounds makes the process economical and sustainable, according to Narayan.
Although this research is still in the early stages, the researchers are moving forward, building on promising results that offer a glimmer of hope to millions of people living with these debilitating diseases.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
Content may be edited for style and length.
References/Sources/Materials provided by: