Mannitol Sugar Alcohol Could Be Used To Treat Parkinson’s Disease
June 17, 2013

Artificial Sweetener Has Potential To Be Parkinson’s Treatment

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) say an artificial sweetener could be a potential treatment for Parkinson's disease.

According to findings reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, mannitol, a common component of sugar-free gum and candy, helps prevent clumps of the protein a-synuclein from forming in the brain, which is a process that is characteristic of Parkinson's disease. The artificial sweetener has been approved by the FDA as a diuretic to flush out excess fluids and is used during surgery as a substance that opens the blood/brain barrier to ease the passage of other drugs.

TAU researchers said mannitol could be a novel therapy for the treatment of Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases. After the team identified the structural characteristics that facilitate the development of clumps of a-synuclein, they began searching for a compound that could inhibit the proteins' ability to bind together. They found mannitol was among the most effective agents in preventing aggregation of the protein in test tubes.

In order to test the capabilities of mannitol in the living brain, the team turned to transgenic fruit flies engineered to carry the human gene for a-synuclein. They studied the fly's ability to climb the walls of a test tube to see their locomotive capability. In the initial experiment, 72 percent of normal flies were able to climb up the test tube, compared to just 38 percent of the genetically-altered flies.

The researchers added mennitol to the food of the genetically-altered flies for a period of 27 days and repeated the experiment. They found 70 percent of the mutated flies were able to climb up the test tube after receiving mannitol.

The team was able to confirm the findings during a second study that measured the impact of mannitol on mice engineered to produce human a-synuclein. During this study they found that the mice injected with mannitol also showed a dramatic reduction of a-synuclein.

Further experiments on animal models, such as behavioral testing, is needed in order to re-examine the structure of the mannitol compound and introduce modifications to optimize its effectiveness.

Daniel Segal of Tel Aviv University's Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, warned that although the results look promising, it is still not advisable for Parkinson's patients to begin ingesting mannitol in large quantities. He said more testing needs to be done in order to determine dosages that would be both effective and safe.

Last May, scientists reported in the journal Neurology they found a link between Parkinson's disease and exposure to chemical weed or bug killers. The researchers calculated between a 33 to 80 percent increase in risk of developing the disorder as exposure to certain weed or bug killers increased.