Can lichen compound forestall Alzheimer’s neuron-destruction?

Research is beginning to indicate that the culprit in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other diseases is the activity of tiny bits of misfolded amyloid-beta protein (small protein aggregates), which have a toxic, destructive effect on neurons.

Now a team of researchers in Berlin have found that orcein, historically a red lichen-derived food and fabric colour, appears to reduce the abundance of these toxic bits (called precursors because they eventually lead to large plaques). Both orcein and O4, a small blue pigment molecule similar to one in the complex 14-molecule orcein compound, bind to the pre-fibrous amyloid-beta aggregates, transforming them to large plaques which are not thought to be neurotoxic — via

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