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Alzheimer's disease

New hope for Alzheimer's disease: scientists find way to make brain-saving compound found in rare moss

Friday, August 26, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: Alzheimer's disease, medicine, health news

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(NaturalNews) Big Pharma has come up with a host of side effect laden, expensive drugs to supposedly treat Alzheimer's disease (AD). So far, the prescription meds work only a little or not at all -- and for just a short time. But while mainstream medicine considers AD treatment pretty hopeless at present, a host of natural strategies and nutritional therapies are showing promise in the fight against this most common, and dreaded, form of dementia.

For example, as NaturalNews has covered previously, vitamin D may help stop AD (http://www.naturalnews.com/026392_Vitamin_D_...) and traditional Chinese martial arts exercises and meditation such as qigong and Taiji can slow their physical, mental and psychological decline of Alzheimer's, too (http://www.naturalnews.com/025040.html#ixzz1...).

Now researchers have found a natural substance in a type of moss, Huperzia serrata (also known as Chinese Club Moss) that could be a powerful treatment for AD, and may potentially combat the effects of chemical warfare agents, too. Called huperzine A, the compound is an enzyme inhibitor that has been used to treat Alzheimer's disease in China since the late 1990s. It's also sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement to help maintain memory.

Several studies have shown it has the remarkable power to benefit and protect the brain and may be a treatment for diseases and conditions associated with neurodegeneration, including myasthenia gravis as well as Alzheimer's disease. Huperzine A has been found to be more easily absorbed by the body and last longer in the body than other treatments now prescribed to try to delay AD's progression.

So why isn't huperzine A more widely known and used to help people with Alzheimer's? Unfortunately, the moss is extremely rare and may be near extinction in its native China. But now there has been a major breakthrough - Yale scientists have come up with a practical way to synthesize huperzine A in just eight steps, producing a yield of 40 percent. Their research was just published in the journal Chemical Science.

"Being able to synthesize large amounts of huperzine A in the lab is crucial because the plant itself, which has been used in Chinese folk medicine for centuries, takes decades to grow and is nearing extinction due to over harvesting," Seth Herzon, a chemist who headed the Yale research team, said in a statement to the media. "We believe huperzine A has the potential to treat a range of neurologic disorders more effectively than the current options available. And we now have a route to huperzine A that rivals nature's pathway."

Currently, huperzine A's rarity means it can cost up to $1,000 per milligram. But Herzon and his co-researchers believe their technique of synthesizing the compound will be able to drive the cost down to just 50 cents per milligram (a projected typical dose is around one milligram per day).

Plans are underway to further test the therapeutic potential of huperzine A in clinical trials involving research subjects with several different neurological disorders. In addition, according to the media statement, the U.S. Army is interested in huperzine A's potential to safely block the effects of chemical warfare agents.

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