Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv UniversityIsrael news photo: TAU

The artificial sweetener "mannitol" may prevent the collection of toxins in the brain, and could ultimately lead to a new treatment for Parkinson's disease, according to new research at Tel Aviv University.

Professors Ehud Gazit and Daniel Segal, both at the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, published their findings together with colleague Dr. Ronit Shaltiel Karyo and PhD Candidate Moran Frenkel-Pinter, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Mannitol is already approved by the FDA as a diuretic to flush excess fluids from the body, and is used during surgery to open the blood-brain barrier to ease the passage of other drugs.

But the new research found that it also prevents clumps of the protein a-synuclein from forming in the brain – a process that is characteristic of Parkinson’s disease – using genetically altered fruit flies for the experiments.

The findings were confirmed by a second study which measured the impact of mannitol on mice engineered to produce human a-synuclein. After four months, the researchers found that the mice injected with mannitol also showed a dramatic reduction of the protein in the brain.

The study, funded by a grant from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and supported in part by the Lord Alliance Family Trust, may lead to a new form of treatment for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.