Researchers seek food industry help to develop next generation of brain foods

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Brain Research

Thompson: 'What’s scary is how little there is in the pipeline to treat Alzheimer’s'
Thompson: 'What’s scary is how little there is in the pipeline to treat Alzheimer’s'
The researchers behind Emulin - a blood glucose control ingredient attracting interest from some of the biggest brands in food and drink - is asking food manufacturers to help it design the best food delivery format for a new citrus-based ingredient targeting Alzheimer’s Disease.

The long-term plan is to incorporate the ingredient - dubbed neuroptin - ​into medical foods, said Dr Daryl Thompson, director of Florida-based biomedical research group Global Research and Discovery Group.

Thompson, who has been researching the health benefits of citrus fruit for a decade, said the citrus peel ingredient had shown significant promise in animal studies and is about to enter human clinical trials.

He added: “The citrus peel ingredient is two carboxylic acids from the rutaceae family, which includes citrus, because the compounds are found in most of the oily leaves of the plant and not only the fruit. This will be a new compound that we will be naming neuroptin due to its positive neurological effects.

“Citrus fruits contain a complete medicine cabinet - a real botanical treasure chest.”

Open invitation to the food industry

By engaging with the food industry now, Thompson is hoping to speed up the R&D process by ensuring that delivery formats used in clinical trials on neuroptin match the requirements of food and beverage makers that might ultimately incorporate it into their products.  

Thompson told FoodNavigator-USA: “We are launching a two-year project to create a cognitive preventative agent that can be added to foods to prevent the ever increasing onset of Alzheimer’s.

“Our goal is to make this known to the food industry and invite input on this project. This will allow us to pre-design the appropriate testing vehicles so that the data we generate will be exactly matched to the consumer.

“We realized with Emulin that doing all the research is actually not what takes the most time. What takes time is getting the big corporations up to speed, so we want to cut through the bureaucracy and see if we can get something to market more quickly.”

What’s scary is how little there is in the pipeline to treat Alzheimer’s Disease

He added: “What’s scary is how little there is in the pipeline to treat Alzheimer’s. People are just throwing things at the wall to see if they work so we see a big opportunity here.

“I have noticed that consumers and scientists can get all ‘weird’ when neurological implications are discussed ​[in relation to foods]. The mere mention of ‘neuro’ anything can conjure scary images.

“The truth is that it’s not that scary at all. These are biological effects that have co-evolved between humans and plants and we are just now getting to learn how to observe and use these bio-medicines.”

Take folate, he said. “Folate is just a common vitamin that we added to foods to cut the risk of neural-tube birth defects by 60%. We expect to do the same for neurological issues such as Alzheimer’s with this project.”

Three-pronged mechanism of action

Tests on rodents have shown that the citrus compounds tackled lesions and plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s, he said.

“These compounds are patentable and work in a unique synergistic manner... The first acid acts directly to inhibit the action of plaque-forming enzymes while the other sensitizes the active transport mechanisms of the blood brain barrier, allowing for the first acid to be more effective.”

The ingredient has a three-pronged mechanism of action, he said. “We believe it inhibits the production of TNF-alpha​ [a pro-inflammatory cytokine implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s], inhibits secretase​ [an enzyme involved in the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain] and inhibits the formation of tau fibrils​ [twisted fibers of a protein called tau that build up inside cells of Alzheimer’s patients]."

Based on our previous data we expect clear results

The next animal trial - conducted by Finnish firm Cerebricon (which specializes in preclinical neurological disease models of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s) - will use transgenic mice from Charles River Discovery Research Services​ and explore whether the citrus compound can prevent as well as clear neural plaque.

This will be followed by an eight-month human clinical trial conducted by Dresden-based contract researcher ABX-CRO, he said.

Patients will undergo a series of assessments including MRI scans looking at fibril changes in the brain and cognitive tests, he said.

“The study will be a ‘Pass or Fail’ analysis, which means it will clearly work or it will clearly not work.

“Based on our previous data we expect clear results. We will have a three arm study with 30 in each arm: A control group; a mild cognitive or pre-Alzheimer’s group; and a full cognitive impaired (full Alzheimer’s) group.”

Companies interested in finding out more about the cognitive research project should contact Dr Thompson at: q.gubzcfba@tybonyeqt.pbz

*​ Global Research and Discovery Group is a private research group funded by a “wide variety of private investors that act as industrial advisors”, ​said Thompson.  

Once we identify a problem we recruit the best team in the field to test and verify a solution. Our mandate is simply to acquire the needed assets to work quickly and create technology faster than the larger companies.”

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