Green Tea Molecule May Have Led Researchers to a New Alzheimer’s Treatment Approach

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are some treatments that may impact disease progression and can help with symptom management. An investigation into green tea may have uncovered another tool for this arsenal.

New research funded in part by the National Institute on Aging studied a green tea molecule capable of breaking up tangles of tau protein, which builds up in an abnormal form in Alzheimer’s patients. According to findings published in the journal Nature Communications, this knowledge led to the identification of other molecules that behave in a similar way and may be more effective. The research team hopes this opens the door to a new treatment approach.


The researchers write, “Further screening or optimization of these compounds may result in a new generation of AD drug leads capable of entering neurons and effectively disaggregating tau fibrils into inert products. Our approach may be applicable to amyloid proteins involved in other amyloid-based degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and systemic amyloidosis.”

In their study, the team looked at the green tea molecule epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which untangles tau fibers that spread between brain cells and cause cell death in Alzheimer’s patients. Despite this ability, though, EGCG isn’t thought to be a good treatment on its own because it can’t easily penetrate the brain and also binds to other proteins. This led the researchers to look for other molecules that also untangle tau fibers but may be better treatment options.


They first studied how EGCG worked, using donated brain tissue from Alzheimer’s patients who had died. The team treated the tau protein tangles from this tissue with EGCG, froze them, and then took images. These images showed that EGCG binds to openings along each layer of tau fibers, destabilizing them and then slowly breaking the fibers apart.

From there, the team used computer simulations to identify other molecules that would likely do the same thing but have fewer issues penetrating the brain. Once identified, they tested these molecules in both a tau tangle formation cell model and on the tau tangles from the donated brain tissue. The researchers found that several molecules untangled tau fibers in both tests, with some even preventing the untangled tau from spreading.

The team says more research is needed to confirm the findings, but these molecules could ultimately be part of a new Alzheimer’s treatment strategy. More research could also turn up more ways in which they could be used.

You can find the full study here.

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