By Lata Jha

For the few who know of it, mannitol is an artificial sweetener used in alcohol, sugar free gum and candy. Some others might know that it is medically approved to be a diuretic to flush out excess fluids from the body and to open the passage to the brain during surgery.

parkinsonRecent research however suggests that mannitol could be a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease. It prevents clumps of the protein α-synuclein from forming in the brain — a process that is characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. These results suggest that this artificial sweetener could be a novel therapy for the treatment of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. While hunting for a compound that could inhibit the proteins’ ability to bind together, researchers found that mannitol was among the most effective agents in preventing this aggregation. The benefit of the substance is that it is already approved for use in a variety of clinical interventions.

Having tested its effectiveness, researchers now plan to re-examine the structure of the mannitol compound and introduce modifications to optimize its utility. Further experiments on animal models, including behavioural testing, whose disease development is based more closely on the development of Parkinson’s in humans is needed, professors say.

For now, mannitol may be used certifiably in combination with other medications that have been developed to treat Parkinson’s but which have proven quite ineffective in breaking through the blood/brain barrier. These medications may be able to support and enhance mannitol’s ability to open this barrier into the brain.

Although the results look promising, it is still not advisable for Parkinson’s patients to begin consuming mannitol in large quantities. More testing must be done to find out exactly how much of the substance can be had, in what dosages, and how safe it is.

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