Chemical compound found in tree bark stimulates growth, survival of brain cells

Oct 01, 2007

Researchers have identified a compound in tree bark that mimics the chemical reactions of a naturally occurring molecule in the brain responsible for stimulating neuronal cell signaling. Neuronal cell signaling plays a crucial role in the growth, plasticity and survival of brain cells.

The tree bark compound, known as gambogic amide, behaves much like Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), a molecule found in the brain. NGF binds to TrkA, a neuronal receptor, and activates neuronal signaling. It is known that the loss of TrkA density correlates with neuronal atrophy and severe cognitive impairment such as that associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Because gambogic amide also binds to TrKA and activates neuronal signaling, the researchers believe it may have potential as a therapeutic treatment in people affected by neurodegenerative disease, such as stroke, AlzheimerÕs disease and peripheral diabetic neuropathies.

Results of the study are published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and will be published in a future print edition.

The research was conducted by Emory University scientists Keqiang Ye, PhD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine; first author Sung-Wuk Jang, PhD, and Masashi Okada, PhD, post-doctoral fellows in Dr. Ye's lab; Iqbal Sayeed, PhD, instructor; Donald Stein, PhD, Asa G. Candler Professor of Medicine; and Peng Jin, PhD, assistant professor of human genetics; and Dr. Ge Xiao at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gambogic amide is derived from gambogic acid, a major ingredient of gamboges, a brownish-orange resin exuded from the Southeast Asian Garcinia hanburryi tree. The resin has been used in that area of the world for thousands of years to treat cancers without any reported toxicity to noncancerous cells.

"Humans actually have a naturally occurring molecule in the body, Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which stimulates the growth and differentiation of certain types of nerve cells. However, NGF has poor pharmocokinetics and bioavailability when synthetically manufactured and used therapeutically, and it is also expensive to produce," Dr. Ye says.

"Previous research had focused on copying the chemical structure of NGF, but the cyclopeptide mimetics are not potent enough to use as a therapeutic agent. Instead, we decided that we needed to identify a more robust molecule that would pharmacologically mimic NGF's effect on brain cells by binding to TrkA. What we came up with was gambogic amide." Dr. Ye says.

The researchers are now conducting further pre-clinical research to investigate how the body processes gambogic amide and to confirm that it is in fact non-toxic.

Source: Emory University

Explore further: Head injury causes the immune system to attack the brain

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How female fruit flies know when to say 'yes'

Oct 07, 2014

A fundamental question in neurobiology is how animals, including humans, make decisions. A new study publishing in the open access journal PLOS Biology on October 7 reveals how fruit fly females make a very ...

Activation of brain region can change a monkey's choice

May 29, 2014

Artificially stimulating a brain region believed to play a key role in learning, reward and motivation induced monkeys to change which of two images they choose to look at. In experiments reported online ...

Recommended for you

Head injury causes the immune system to attack the brain

4 hours ago

Scientists have uncovered a surprising way to reduce the brain damage caused by head injuries - stopping the body's immune system from killing brain cells. The study, published in the open access journal Acta Neuropathologica Co ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

templeghost
not rated yet Oct 02, 2007
QUOTE: the researchers believe it may have potential as a therapeutic treatment in people affected by neurodegenerative disease

In other words, the natural world automatically protects you against disease, whereas, the plastic and metal of the modern world is the root cause of disease.

Moreover, the body absorbs everything which is put upon it. The body can handle a great deal of ingested poison, however, poison which is put upon the flesh is much more likely to bring disease and suffering to the people.

Furthermore, living in the natural world is shown to preserve your mental ability, and increase your physical endurance.

Well, who knew eh?