Ginseng could be a route to treating Alzheimer’s

11 January 2021

Researchers from Korea have found a bacterium in the soil surrounding the roots of ginseng plants which they say could provide a new approach for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

The bacterium, Streptomyces, produces a compound called rhizolutin; the process taking place in the rhizosphere, the complex ecosystem that exists around the roots of the ginseng plant. The research team cultivated Streptomyces in a medium fortified with ginseng powder and increased rhizolutin production by a factor of 10. This allowed them to determine the structure of the compound.

During a screening of natural product libraries, the novel compound was found to be a promising drug lead for Alzheimer’s. It appeared to be capable of splitting up the deposits of amyloid-beta proteins and tau proteins characteristic of Alzheimer’s. These deposits appear to be involved in the death of nerve cells, nerve inflammation brain atrophy and eventual cognitive decline. When the team added rhizolutin to cultures of neuronal and ganglia cells, they found that it triggered the disassociation of insoluble amyloid-beta and tau aggregates. It was also able to significantly reduce the inflammatory process and cell death caused by amyloidbeta. 

The researchers say that the rhizosphere has been neglected in the search for new drugs, even though it has much to offer.

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