Compound found in hibiscus may help treat Alzheimer’s disease

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A recent study found that gossypetin, a flavonoid found in hibiscus, activated immune cells in the brain that cleared amyloid beta peptide (Aβ), which triggers Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was published in the journal, Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, and led by researchers from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in Pohang, South Korea. Previous studies have found hibiscus tea to help boost the immune system, control blood pressure, and reduce body weight. For this study, researchers sought to study if the flavonoid could help improve Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairments.

According to the study, incessant exposure to Aβ exhausts the microglia, resident cells in the brain that help maintain neuronal networks. This leads to chronic inflammation and nerve damage and causes the cognitive decline and memory loss seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

For this investigation, researchers used mice models with Alzheimer’s disease and treated them with gossypetin through intragastric administration for three months. According to the study, after the treatment the mice’s memory and cognition were almost restored to normal levels. In addition, there was a decrease in several types of Aβ aggregates commonly found in the brain tissue of those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Next, the research team conducted single-cell RNA sequencing and found that gossypetin prevented the expression of genes associated with gliosis, which encourages chronic inflammation reactions. In addition, the sequencing showed the gossypetin increased the expression of genes that help facilitate the clearance of Aβ in the microglia.

These results indicate that gossypetin may help restore impaired cognition related to Alzheimer’s disease which could lead to more effective treatments for the disease, according to the study’s authors.

"We have confirmed that removing Aβ aggregates deposited in the brain is effective in preventing and treating dementia,” said Kyong-Tai Kim, PhD, a professor at POSTECH in a statement. “Gossypetin from hibiscus will contribute to the development of a safe and affordable drug for patients suffering from AD."