Neuroprotective effect of phytochemicals in parkinsonism: the review article of the research group lead by Professor Fornai

Is was published on the International Journal of Molecular Science the review article entitled “Phytochemicals bridging autophagy induction and alpha-synuclein degradation in parkinsonism” (doi:10.3390/ijms20133274), of which Maico Polzella, Chief Operating Officer and founder of Aliveda, is an author. The writing was coordinated by Professor Francesco Fornai, from the Department of Translational Research and New Technologies in Medicine and Surgery, University of Pisa. The review has the aim of assessing the neuroprotective effect of plants rich in some phytochemicals in parkinsonism.

In the last century, phytochemicals gained popularity for the prevention and treatment of many diseases, from cardiovascular, metabolic to neurodegenerative diseases.

The natural compounds more often used in pre-clinical and clinical trials for their benefit on the nervous metabolism include curcumin (C. longa), bacosides (B. monnieri), catechins of green tea (C. sinensis), gallic and Asiatic acids (C. asiatica), withanolides (W. somnifera, ashwagandha), and resveratrol (V. vinifera). The clinical trials performed on healthy subjects and on those with neurological diseases, as the Alzheimer disease, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, give encouraging results on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and on the cognitive improvements gave by these phytochemicals, together with a good tolerance.

The biological effects exerted by phytochemicals include: modulation of dopamine (DA) metabolism and release, growth factor induction, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, regulation of mitochondrial homeostasis, stem cell modulation/neurogenesis, and restoration of proteostasis through regulation of protein-folding chaperones and the cell clearing systems autophagy and proteasome. As pointed by most of the past and recent discoveries in PD research, the abovementioned phytochemical-targeted processes represent key events which are altered in parkinsonism.

The following figure shows the effects of the plants rich in phytochemicals, in counteracting the molecular events happening in Parkinson disease and parkinsonism. These include oxidative stress and accumulation of Reactive Oxygen Species arising from altered dopamine metabolism, endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondrial stress, structural alterations of α-syn, formation of insoluble aggregates, neuro-inflammation, and autophagy impairment. Phytochemicals from the plants represented here confer neuroprotection by preventing or reverting this pathological cascade, starting from autophagy induction to inhibition of α-syn aggregation, neuro-inflammation and oxidative stress.

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