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Rose root active ingredient counteracts the loss of memory
Rose root (Rhodiola rosea) is used in naturopathy to boost mental performance and counteract the increasing forgetfulness in old age. Why rose root has this effect on humans was previously unknown. A German team of researchers has now unlocked the secret of the rose root plant for the first time and found the memory-enhancing active ingredient. From this, drugs can now be developed that counteract an age-related decrease in memory.
Researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (LIN) and for Plant Biochemistry (IPB) recently discovered an active ingredient in rose root that can increase mental performance. Rose root is already used in natural preparations. The underlying active ingredient was previously unknown. From the active ingredient, the first effective drug against age-related memory loss or even against dementia diseases such as Alzheimer's could arise. The study results were recently published in the scientific journal "Science Advances".
Long known but understood for the first time
The average age in our society is continuously increasing - but so are the illnesses that are associated with an age-related mental breakdown. So far, there is no effective medication to counteract this. The rose root has long been thought to have a memory-enhancing effect in naturopathy. It is used, for example, in conditions of chronic exhaustion. The research team around Dr. Birgit Michels has now demonstrated the performance-enhancing effect in a study and found the underlying active ingredient in the medicinal plant.
No drugs without active ingredient
"In order to make this knowledge usable for medicine, we wanted to find out which specific active ingredients from Rhodiola improve memory," reports the expert in a press release on the study results. Without an identified active ingredient, neither targeted dosing nor effective plant cultivation is possible. A meaningful quality control would also be difficult. These are all prerequisites without which drug development cannot take place.
Rose root is already available as a herbal preparation
Numerous memory enhancement preparations containing rose root are already available on the market. "However, due to fluctuating drug concentrations, these can be inactive or lead to incorrect dosing," write the researchers at the Leibniz Institute. Here, neither the effect nor the side effects of the patient or the doctor are understandable.
Fly larvae helped with the discovery
In extensive bioassays, the scientists isolated the individual active ingredients of the rose root and tested them on fly larvae. Here the substance ferulic acid eicosyl ester (FAE-20) crystallized, which promotes memory. "Although it is chemically a structurally simple molecule, identification as an effective component in the plant extract was very lengthy," says Professor Dr. Ludger Wessjohann the student work. The team had to relate hundreds of natural substances from the plant to a possible increase in mental performance.
Aging flies and mice would recommend rose root
"Next, we were interested in whether memory can be improved even with aging flies," adds Professor Dr. Bertram Gerber added. The researchers were able to prove that aged fruit flies that had the FAE-20 active ingredient in their feed had a memory that was improved by a third compared to congeners who had no access to the active ingredient. The team was able to demonstrate the same effect with aging mice.
What is the effect on humans?
In the animal model, the research team was able to clearly demonstrate the improved memory performance through the rose root active ingredient FAE-20. The team believes that rapid usability for humans is likely, especially since rose root is already used in naturopathy. "Our results with FAE-20 in animals are therefore likely to be transferable back to humans," the researchers conclude. Now it should be checked whether the medicinal active ingredient is also suitable for dementia therapy. (vb)