A Sweet Approach to a Treatment for PARKINSON’S DISEASE



A Sweet Approach to a Treatment for PARKINSON’S DISEASE

A team of Israeli researchers from Tel Aviv University presented their original evidence on their research with the artificial sweetener mannitol at the Drosophila Conference last year and published the results in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.  The results were “sweet”!

Mannitol is an artificial sweetener found in many sugar-free chewing gum and candy productsA Sweet Approach to a Treatment for PARKINSON’S DISEASE.  It is a sugar alcohol derived from many natural plant sources.  Originally, it was seen as a white substance that “bloomed” on flowering ash leaves and was called “manna”, after the biblical food.  It has a long history of use in modern medicine because it is able to cross the blood-brain-barrier, making it useful for treating injuries of the brain.  The Food and Drug Administration have given it their approval.

In laboratory test tube experiments it has also been found to prevent the protein alpha synuclein from forming aggregates, a significant finding which holds an important potential for treatment in PARKINSON’S DISEASE.  To test the ability of mannitol to break up alpha synuclein aggregates in the brain, the researchers, Ehud Gazit and Daniel Segal and their laboratory team designed a study comparing the abilities of both genetically modified and normal drosophila, or fruit flies.  The genetically modified flies to carried the human gene for alpha-synuclein and their performance was barely half of the performance of the normal flies.

So the researchers added mannitol to the diet of the modified flies for a period of 27 days and then repeated the experiment.  Amazingly, the modified flies were able to perform nearly as well as the normal flies.  On examination of the brains of the modified flies, the researchers found a 70 percent reduction in the aggregates of alpha synuclein in the brains of the flies fed a mannitol diet compared to those who had not had the mannitol diet.

Then Dr. Eliezer Masliah from the University of San Diego performed a similar study using mice genetically modified to carry the alpha synuclein gene.  He found that four months after the alpha-synuclein mice were injected with mannitol, they had a dramatic reduction in alpha-synuclein in their brains.

Future and present research involves looking at the structure of the mannitol molecule to find ways to attach other medications that could be carried across the blood-brain-barrier by this molecule.  More experiments with animal models, including behavior testing, will need to be carried out before any testing with humans can be attempted.  Finding the proper dosages and combinations that are effective and safe will take time.  Dr. Segal cautions people that taking mannitol in large quantities is not wise because the research on safety and effectiveness is still being tested and the effects of large doses of mannitol are not yet well understood.  He adds: “I don’t know whether mannitol will provide a cure; this may be too optimistic.  If we can slow down the disease, diagnose it early enough and reduce the amount of suffering, I will be more than happy.  I’m definitely hopeful.”


R. Shaltiel-Karyo, M. Frenkel-Pinter, E. Rockenstein, C. Patrick, M. Levy-Sakin, A. Schiller, N. Egoz-Matia, E. Masliah, D. Segal, E. Gazit. A Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) Disrupter Is Also a Potent  -Synuclein ( -syn) Aggregation Inhibitor: A NOVEL DUAL MECHANISM OF MANNITOL FOR THE TREATMENT OF PARKINSON DISEASE (PD)Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2013; 288 (24): 17579 DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M112.434787

S.Carnvek,  Sweet News for Parkinson’s Disease, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 04 May 2014



Review by Marcia McCall

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