Could Regular Aspirin Protect Against Dementia?

By Chaval Brasil from Campinas, SP, Brasil (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedi

Taking a daily dose of aspirin is believed to be beneficial to people with heart problems. There have also been studies done that suggested aspirin could be helpful in the fight against cancer. However, a recent study done by the Boyce Thompson Institute and Johns Hopkins University has revealed it can also help ward off neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The Study

A component in aspirin binds to an enzyme called GAPDH, which is believed to have a role in dementia-like brain conditions. Researchers of the study found out that salicylic acid binds to GAPDH. Because of this action, it prevents the enzyme from moving into a cell’s nucleus where it can start the lysis or death process.

Senior author of the study, Dr. Daniel Klessig, professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute and Cornell University has studied the mechanism of action in salicylic acid for many years, though it’s been done primarily through plants.

Salicylic acid is the important hormone needed for regulation of homeostasis in a plant’s immune system.
Previous research studies have found several targets in plants that are impacted by salicylic acid and a lot of these targets have similarities in human beings.

In the most recent study, researchers performed high-throughput screens to identify certain proteins in the human body that would bind to salicylic acid. GAPDH is an important enzyme in the metabolism of glucose, it also plays an additional role in cells.
Under oxidative stress, GAPDH is modified and goes into the nucleus of neurons, from there it enhances protein turnover, which is what causes cellular death.

Deprenyl, a Parkinson’s drug, blocks GAPDH from entering the nucleus and the resultant cell death.
Researchers discovered that salicylic acid is good at blocking GAPDH from moving into the nucleus and it prevents a cell from dying.

Study co-author and professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, Solomon Snyder stated, “The enzyme GAPDH long thought to function solely in glucose metabolism, is now known to participate in intracellular signaling.”

He further said, “The new study establishes GAPDH is a target for salicylic drugs related to aspirin, and hence may be relevant to the therapeutic actions of such drugs.”

The team also discovered a natural deviation of salicylic acid in the form of the Chinese medical herb licorice and lab-synthesized versions of the herb bind to GAPDH more tightly than salicylic acid does.

In Closing:

Professor Klessig states, “A better understanding of how salicylic acid and its derivatives regulate the activities of GAPDH, coupled with the discovery of a much more potent synthetic and natural derivatives of salicylic acid, provide great promise for the development of new and better salicylic acid-based treatment of a wide variety of prevalent, devastating diseases.”


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