Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Medicinal Plants Week Brighter Brains
15 May 2013

Brighter Brains

The nodding yellow flowers of the humble daffodil are a welcome sight after the dreary days of winter. Dementia sufferers have a very different reason for enjoying this springtime display. Daffodils are a natural source of the drug galanthamine, one of the few treatments proven to improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Galanthamine slows the breakdown of neurotransmitters – chemicals that carry signals between neurons – leading to improved brain function. Unfortunately, galanthamine is expensive. The best natural sources contain just 0.2% galanthamine and it’s difficult to produce synthetically. Daffodils are thought to produce this chemical as a response to environmental stress, so researchers and farmers in Wales are experimenting with growing the bulbs at high altitude. They hope that creating stressful conditions for the plants will lead to higher drug yields and a brighter outlook for patients.

Written by Sarah McLusky

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