Celastrol (From Thunder God Vine) as a Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease?
According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder. Chronic, meaning this disease is always present, and progressive, meaning that the disease gets worse over time. Close to 1 million Americans suffer from Parkinson’s, and while there are medical treatment options that may lessen the symptoms of the disease or slow its progression, there is, to date, no cure for this life altering illness.
Parkinson’s originates in the brain – where for unknown reasons, certain neurons (nerve cells) begin to malfunction, atrophy and die in the Substantia Nigra Pars Compacta, located in the mid-brain. The Substantia Nigra Pars Compacta serves as sort of circuit board for motor control in the body. In PD, the dopaminergic neurons begin to die, they produce less dopamine for the body, and once over half of them are gone, symptoms may begin to appear. As that cell death continues, symptoms of the disease progress, and become worse.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors in the hands, face, arms and legs. A slowness of movement called bradykinesia, stiffening of the limbs of the body or the trunk of the body, and an inability to balance.
“Scientists are also exploring the idea that loss of cells in other areas of the brain and body contribute to Parkinson’s. For example, researchers have discovered that the hallmark sign of Parkinson’s disease — clumps of a protein alpha-synuclein, which are also called Lewy Bodies — are found not only in the mid-brain but also in the brain stem and the olfactory bulb.” (PDF.org)
As I mentioned, there are treatments for Parkinson’s, such as various medications or surgery options. But there is also a new hope on the horizon – active ingredient in the Thunder God Vine called Celastrol.
Celastrol is an active ingredient isolated from the plant family Celastraceae, also known as Tripterygium Wilfordii Hook F., Thunder-God Vine, or Lei Gong Teng.
Scientists have begun studying the plant in earnest, and have proven in laboratory studies that the compound shows numerous medical and biological uses including anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It has also been shown recently that Celastrol may have anti-diabetic effects – possibly being effective against diabetic nephropathy and improving general insulin resistance (Kim et. al).
The healing property of the thunder god vine root extract related to Parkinson’s disease, however, is its ability to assist the body in healing from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress and inflammation (which as I continue my research, I find that inflammation seems to be a key component in so many things) are components in several neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease. “Celastrol is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound” which is extracted from the creeping thunder god vine (Cleren, et. al).
As discussed above, in Parkinson’s Disease, the dopaminergic neurons begin to die because of the lack of dopamine in the Substantia Nigra Pars Compacta. Dr. Cleren and his team injected mice with a dopaminergic neurotoxin, which kills the dopaminergic neurons in mice, creating “Parkinson’s Disease” in the mice. In the experiment, the mice were treated with 3 mg/kg Celastrol before and after being injected with the neurotoxin, and a “48% loss of dopaminergic neurons induced by [the neurotoxin] in the substantia nigra pars compacta was significantly attenuated by Celastrol treatment. Moreover, Celastrol treatment significantly reduced the depletion in dopamine concentration induced by [the neurotoxin]” (Cleren et. al).
The results of this study show that Celastrol is a promising neuroprotective agent in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. Further studies are, of course, needed, but the results are thus far promising.
Cleren, C., Calingasan, N. Y., Chen, J. and Beal, M. F. (2005), Celastrol protects against MPTP- and 3-nitropropionic acid-induced neurotoxicity. Journal of Neurochemistry, 94: 995–1004. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2005.03253.x
Kim, Jung Eun et al. “Celastrol, an NF-κB Inhibitor, Improves Insulin Resistance and Attenuates Renal Injury in Db/db Mice.” Ed. Pratibha V. Nerurkar. PLoS ONE 8.4 (2013): e62068. PMC. Web. 16 July 2015. < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3637455/>
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