Sip Some Green Tea, Repair Brain Cells

An Israeli scientist at Haifa Technion Institute of Science finds that green tea extract may work as a treatment for neurodegenerative disease.

Hana Levi Julian,

Green tea has long been thought to have a healing effect on the human body. Now a study by an Israeli scientist has found proof in the laboratory of the Technion Institute of Science in Haifa.

A research team led by Dr. Silvia Mandel of the Technion’s Eve Topf Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases found that green tea extract fed to mice with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease protected the brain cells from dying. It also stopped the process of degeneration in cells that were already affected.

A green tea plantation

The Uruguay native, who immigrated to Israel in 1979, has studied the effects of green tea on health and healing for ten years, since she first began working at the research center.

Mandel attended Ben Gurion University of the Negev, where she earned a degree in Biochemistry. She went on to receive a Masters Degree and then a PhD in Pharmacology at the Technion before joining the research center.

It was during her first year at the center that Mandel found a study that indicated the EGCE in green tea extract could be used to prevent damage to red blood cells. That was the spark that set her on the journey to explore its effects on neurodegenerative disease.

A green tea bud

“I looked up some more articles and decided that maybe I could study this compound – in any event, it is natural so it can’t do any harm and it would be nice to tell people that they can drink something pleasant like tea and get beneficial effects from it,” she explained.

The research findings in Mandel’s study showed that the main anti-oxidant polyphenol found in green tea extract, called EGCG, reduced compounds at the molecular level that lead to lesions in the brain. The amount of EGCG injected into the mice was equal to that found in approximately two to four cups of green tea per day.

Her study, presented in September at the Fourth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health in Washington D.C., was one of the first to show the actual mechanism of EGCG when it enters the neurons in the brain.

“It was received really well,” Mandel said in an interview with Israel21c. “It was novel in the sense that most studies presented dealt with how the consumption of tea impacts several parameters in patients affected with different maladies like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”

Green tea

Mandel also said a “neurorescue” study by one of her Ph.D. students, Lydia Reznichenko, showed EGCG not only prevented further deterioration of brain cells in mice affected with Parkinson’s disease, but also helped regenerate the neurons that were already damaged.

“We’re the first to show that green tea is effective in doing this,” said Mandel. “In the past, it was thought that once brain cells were damaged, there was no way to repair them. The major question is whether these promising results are reproducible in humans.”