Ground coffee may be key to preventing neurodegenerative diseases
This article has been reviewed in accordance with Science
Credit: CC0 public domain
Credit: CC0 public domain
Neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, affect millions of people in the United States, and the cost of caring for people living with these conditions amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
Now, researchers from the University of Texas at El Paso may have found a solution in used coffee grounds, a substance that is thrown away from homes and businesses around the world every day.
A team led by Jyotesh Kumar, a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and supervised by Dr Mahesh Narayan, a professor and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the same department, has found that caffeic acid-based carbon quantum dots (CACQDs), which can be extracted from ground coffee, have the ability It helps protect brain cells from damage caused by many neurodegenerative diseases – if the condition is caused by factors such as obesity, age, exposure to pesticides and other factors. Toxic environmental chemicals.
Their work is described in a paper published in the journal Environmental research.
“Caffeic acid-based carbon quantum dots have the potential to be transformative in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders,” Kumar said. “This is because none of the current treatments solve the diseases, but only help manage the symptoms. Our goal is to find a cure by addressing the atomic and molecular underpinnings that cause these conditions.”
Neurodegenerative diseases are primarily characterized by the loss of neurons, or brain cells. It inhibits a person’s ability to perform basic functions such as movement and speech, as well as more complex tasks including bladder and bowel functions, and cognitive abilities.
When disorders are in their early stages and caused by lifestyle or environmental factors, they share several characteristics. These include high levels of free radicals – harmful molecules known to contribute to other diseases such as cancer, heart disease and vision loss – in the brain, and the buildup of fragments of amyloid-forming proteins that can lead to plaques or fibers in cells. the brain.
Kumar and his colleagues found that CACQDs were neuroprotective across test-tube experiments, cell lines, and other models of Parkinson’s disease when the disorder was caused by an insecticide called paraquat. The team observed that CACQDs were able to remove free radicals or prevent them from causing damage, and they also prevented the buildup of amyloid protein fragments without causing any major side effects.
The team hypothesizes that in humans, in the very early stage of a condition such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, a treatment based on CACQDs could be effective in preventing full-blown disease.
“It is important to treat these disorders before they reach the clinical stage,” Narayan said. “At this point, it is likely too late. Any current treatments that can treat the advanced symptoms of neurodegenerative disease are simply beyond the means of most people. Our goal is to come up with a solution that can prevent most cases of these conditions in time. “It can be controlled for as many patients as possible.”
Caffeic acid belongs to a family of compounds called polyphenols, which are plant compounds known for their antioxidant, or free radical-fighting, properties. Narayan said that caffeic acid is unique because it is able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and is therefore able to exert its effect on cells within the brain.
The process the team uses to extract CACQDs from ground coffee is considered “green chemistry,” meaning it is environmentally friendly. In their lab, the team “cooked” samples of ground coffee at 200 degrees for four hours to reorient the carbon structure of caffeic acid and form CACQDs. Narayan said the sheer abundance of coffee waste is what makes the process economical and sustainable.
In addition to Kumar, dozens of UTEP graduate and undergraduate students worked on this project with Narayan, including Sofia Delgado, a former UTEP undergraduate who is now pursuing a Ph.D. At Yale University.
Narayan and Kumar said they know the finish line is still far away. But, for now, they are on a journey that could eventually lead to a drug – perhaps a pill – that might prevent the vast majority of neurodegenerative disorders caused by factors other than genes.
Jyotish Kumar et al., Recarbonation of caffeic acid: green chemistry, a sustainable carbon nanomaterial platform for intervention in neurodegeneration induced by emerging pollutants, Environmental research (2023). doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2023.116932