Fisetin, a natural chemical found in many fruits and vegetables from strawberries to cucumbers appears to stop the memory loss that accompanies Alzheimer's disease in mice, according to scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
In mice that normally develop Alzheimer's symptoms less than a year after birth, a daily dose of fisetin prevented the progressive memory and learning impairments they would normally show.
In normal animals, fisetin has already been shown to protect brain cells from the ill-effects of aging and improve memory by turning on a cellular pathway involved in memory.
Now this new study shows that it also protect animals that are susceptible to Alzheimer's disease.
Study authors used a strain of mice that have mutations in two genes linked to Alzheimer's disease. They started adding fisetin to the diet of these mice when they were three months old - and as the mice aged, the researchers tested their memory and learning skills with water mazes.
The results were clear. By nine months of age, mice that hadn't received fisetin began performing poorly in the mazes. On the other hand, mice that had received a daily dose of fisetin performed just as well as normal mice at both nine months and a year old.
In other words - even as the disease was progressing in these mice, fisetin was able to prevent any symptoms from appearing.
Normally, pathways involved in cellular inflammation are turned on in mice with Alzheimer's symptoms. However, in animals that took fisetin, these pathways were reduced and anti-inflammatory molecules were present instead.
Previous studies had suggested that fisetin might also decrease amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's affected mice, but that observation didn't hold up in this new study. Simply put, fisetin didn't affect plaque formation.
Still, this new finding suggests there may be a way to treat Alzheimer's symptoms without necessarily targeting amyloid plaques. In fact, compounds like fisetin that have more than one target may eventually turn out to be more effective at treating Alzheimer's disease, simply because it's a complex disease where a lot of things go wrong.
These scientists had started the mice on fisetin before they had developed any memory loss. In reality, human patients don't go to the doctor until they are already having memory problems -which is why, according to the authors of this study, their next step is going to be to test whether fisetin can reverse memory loss once they have already appeared.
However, there’s no need for you wait till they figure it out.