Parkinson's 'could be treated with blueberries'

Parkinson's 'could be treated with blueberries'

Eating blueberries could help to stave off Parkinson's, according to a new study.

Researchers from the department of biology at Memorial University found that a diet supplemented with extracts of the fruit had a positive effect on a fruit fly model of the condition.

Studies have shown how a gene called alpha-synuclein is the first one that is related to the disease. 

The team, led by David Lipsett and Dr Brian Staveley, inserted it into fruit flies and found that it caused certain defects, such as a decreased lifespan and retinal degeneration.

It transpired the flies with the genes, which were fed an extract of blueberry, had a lifespan of as much as eight days more, on average, than those that were given a standard control diet.

While eight days may not seem like a huge amount, Dr Staveley pointed out how one day for a fly roughly corresponds with a year for humans. 

"If you have a disease and you're given an extra eight years of life, you'd probably be pretty happy with that," he remarked. 

Furthermore, the extract helped to improve eye defects that had been brought about by the gene. 

The way alpha-synuclein functions is not very well understood, but scientists think it plays a crucial role in how dopamine - a type of neurotransmitter that regulates voluntary and involuntary movements - is released. 

It is found in the human brain, predominantly at the tips of nerve cells, in special structures that are called pre-synaptic terminals.

These send out neurotransmitters - which are vital for the brain to function properly - that convey signals between neurons.

It is believed those who have an accumulation of the gene are more vulnerable to oxidative stress. This is when an imbalance occurs between the production of free radicals - that can cause damage or death - and the body's ability to combat the adverse effects with antioxidants.

Researchers think this combination may have a key part to play in how Parkinson's disease develops. 

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