In a new study, scientists found that strawberries and other fruits and vegetables slows the onset of motor problems and delays death in three models of Huntington's disease.
Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies studied Fisetin, a naturally occurring compound found in many fruits and vegetables, and its role in treating Huntington's and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited disorder that destroys neurons in certain parts of the brain and slowly erodes victims' ability to walk, talk and reason.
It is caused by a kind of genetic stutter, which leads to the expansion of a trinucleotide repeat in the huntingtin protein. When the length of the repeated section reaches a certain threshold, the bearer develops Huntington's disease.
Pamela Maher and her team began their study by looking at a nerve cell line that could be made to express a mutant form of the Huntington protein. Without treatment, about 50 percent of these cells will die within a few days. Adding fisetin, however, prevented cell death.
Next, Maher tested fisetin in fruit flies overexpressing mutant Huntington in neurons in the brain. The affected flies don't live as long as normal flies and also have defective eye development. When they were fed fisetin, however, the HD flies maintained their life span and had fewer eye defects.
The team also found that mutant mice that were fed fisetin experienced a delay in the onset of motor defects, and their life span was extended by about 30 percent.
Maher's findings suggest that the compound may be able to slow down the progression of Huntington's disease in humans and improve the quality of life for those who have it.
But she cautions that further studies are required to test the efficacy of the compound in people who are already in the advanced stages of the disease.
The study is published in the online edition of Human Molecular Genetics.