Decreased cognitive performance is a hallmark of brain ageing, but the underlying mechanisms and potential therapeutic avenues remain poorly understood. Now, new research results with VASCage contribution raise the intriguing possibility that dietary spermidine may be protective against cognitive decline in humans. The exciting new findings are published in the current issue of the journal Cell Reports. The study combines epidemiological and experimental data on mice and flies.
On a molecular level the beneficial effects of spermidine appear to depend on improved cellular recycling processes (autophagy) in the mitochondria of neurons. Mitochondria provide the cells in the brain with energy. Epidemiological data from the Bruneck study in humans showed that higher nutrional spermidine intake correlated with less age-related cognitive decline. Spermidine is contained in a large number of foods, that are generally considered as healthy such as nuts, mushrooms, fruits, whole-grain bread, cheese and vegetables.
Cooperation of a large interdisciplinary research team
The interdisciplinary team of more than 50 scientists at 20 universities that contributed to the paper was led by researchers of the University of Graz, the Medical University of Innsbruck (MUI) and Freie Universität Berlin. Stefan Kiechl, Director of the Neurological Department at MUI and scientific director of VASCage is among the corresponding authors.
Further interventional clinical studies necessary
“The consistent effects of dietary spermidine on mitochondrial function and cognitive performance across species borders (flies, mice, humans) suggest a broad potential of spermidine in treating cognitive disorders and warrants further interventional clinical studies,” says Kiechl. Epidemiological research on spermidine is supported by VASCage – Research Centre on Vascualar Ageing and Stroke. VASCage manages and supports the conduct of a broad range of national and international clinical trials.
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