NATURAL PRODUCT EXTRACTS TO PROTECT NEURONS:
Research by Dr. Aldo Bruccoleri and Dr. V. Wee Yong
Neurons, our brain’s nerve cells, die from a variety of injuries. These injuries include stroke, spinal cord injury, concussions and multiple sclerosis. Neurons also die with the aging process and are lost prematurely in dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. A significant loss of neurons leads to permanent deficits of mobility and cognitive functions. Means to protect neurons following such neurological insults may ameliorate subsequent disability. Furthermore, the availability of potentially protective natural products consumed habitually to promote healthy brain aging may reduce the occurrence of strokes or protect against the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Our goal is to further develop our unique capacity to extract products reproducibly from specific plants by using supramolecular antioxidant polymer nanotechnology. The resulting plant-derived products have demonstrated the capacity to bind free radical species and neutralize them. Importantly, all plant-derived extracts prevent injury to neurons inflicted by several toxic insults. Some of these extracts also reduce the growth of cancer cells in culture, and some have stimulatory activity on immune cells that may render them useful to harness the properties of a properly-directed immune response for health and recovery from injury.
Dr. V. Wee Yong
Dr. V. Wee Yong is a Professor at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Departments of Clinical Neurosciences and Oncology at The University of Calgary. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Neuroimmunology. Dr. Yong co-directs the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) NeuroTeam of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, providing the basic science leadership, and he directs the Alberta MS Network. Dr. Yong’s research interests lie in the area of neuroimmunology, neuroprotection and CNS regeneration, and his projects are guided by MS, spinal cord injury and brain tumors. Dr. Yong has published 250 peer-reviewed manuscripts and his research has been translated into Phase III clinical trials in MS and spinal cord injury. His work has been cited over 14,500 times by other authors in scientific publications. Dr. Yong is the immediate past chair of the Medical Advisory Committee of the MS Society of Canada; this and other volunteer activities resulted in him receiving the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Year Medallion. Dr. Yong is on the editorial board of 7 international journals. He is the current President of the International Society of Neuroimmunology. Dr. Yong is an elected fellow of both the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2010) and the Royal Society of Canada (2014), which represent top honors for those working in the medical and academic sciences, respectively.
Supramolecular chemistry plays an integral role in the field of molecular nanotechnology. Dr. Bruccoleri has been studying natural and synthetic supramolecular chemical complexes for over fifteen years, and he has applied this relatively new technology with success in the development of certain novel HIV-1 RT inhibitors (Bruccoleri, 2013, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22938539). Dr. Bruccoleri has now extended his work towards the design of novel antioxidant neuroprotection and anticancer agents. At the heart of Dr. Bruccoleri’s supramolecular research is the use of non-covalent interactions leading to desired supramolecular complexes. Unique 3-D molecular architectures may be purposely designed for unique biomedical applications.
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