Mining a common food compound, Epicatechin, for a new Alzheimer’s disease treatment

Research project: Mining the (-)-epicatechin metabolome for AD therapeutics

Lead Investigator: Dr Robert Williams

  • Institution: University of Bath
  • Grant type: Project
  • Duration: 30 months
  • Amount: £188,279.91

The study relies on collaboration with Mars Edge Inc to provide the Epicatechin by-products for further investigation.

Why did we fund this research?

Comment from our Research Network volunteers

I feel there would be many long term benefits of this research and it not only builds on research already undertaken but uses existing networks and will contribute to other projects in the search for early intervention through diet and medicine.

Project summary

Epicatechin is a naturally occurring compound called a flavonol. It is found in many common plant foods such as fruit, nuts and seeds, chocolate and drinks such as tea and coffee. Studies in mice have shown this compound might slow down the formation of toxic clumps of the proteins – amyloid and tau - in Alzheimer’s disease.  

The challenge for the researchers is that, when Epicatechin is digested, it is broken down by the body into over 20 by-products. This project hopes to find out which of these various by-products could slow down the build-up of these toxic proteins. 

The background 

Studies of diets in people around the world have helped link better brain health with the consumption of certain plant flavonols. The build-up of toxic clumps of the proteins - amyloid and tau - in the brain, are key hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies in mice have suggested that Epicatechin might slow the build-up of these proteins. 

This directed Dr Williams and his research team’s attention to Epicatechin and its by-products to establish if they might have potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. 

What does this project involve?

The researchers will use biochemical and molecular approaches that they have developed over the last five years to test all of the by-products of Epicatechin compounds in parallel. 

Using cells taken from a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease they will look at the effect of each of the by-products on the formation of clumps of amyloid and tau.

How will this project help people with dementia?

This research could begin to provide the data needed to support a trial in humans looking at the most effective Epicatechin by-products.

There would be many advantages in working with an easily available plant based supplement that could be taken to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and not just treat the symptoms. The most effective compounds could go on to be tested as both a risk reducing dietary supplement and a new medicine for dementia.

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