The number of Alzheimer's patients is expected to rise significantly over the next few decades. Currently, there are five therapeutic strategies for managing the disease: anti-glutamatergic treatment, antioxidants and vitamins, cholinergic treatment, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and pharmacological management of neuropsychiatric symptoms.
However, incomplete knowledge surrounding Alzheimer's pathogenesis and aetiology means single targeted therapies have mostly been unsuccessful so far. Ginkgo biloba L., however, has long been said to be efficient in ameliorating mild to moderate dementia in sufferers of Alzheimer's and other age-related neurological disorders.
While it has been a highly popular herbal remedy in China for centuries, its various compounds with possible synergistic effects make its pharmacological mechanism difficult to determine.
As such, researchers in China sought to elucidate G. biloba's pharmacological mechanism in its purported anti-Alzheimer's effects.
They collected compounds from the Traditional Chinese Medicine System Pharmacology Database and Analysis Platform (TCMSP), as well as data on Alzheimer's-related protein targets from GeneCards and the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD). Both databases offer an expert, science-based review ranking of protein targets; a higher score means a greater correlation with Alzheimer's.
The researchers subsequently reported that G. biloba's beneficial impact on Alzheimer's might be attributed to its ability to induce hormone sensitivity regulation, endocrine homeostasis enhancement, endothelial microvascular integrity maintenance, and proteolysis of tau proteins.
They also identified six putative protein targets significantly associated with Alzheimer's that had not been extensively studied before — these proteins displayed antioxidant, anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory activity, as well as protective effects on the mitochondria and amyloidogenesis.
The researchers stated that the mechanisms and protein targets they discovered could be highly significant for future scientific research, with existing mechanisms such as oxidative stress reduction and anti-apoptosis having been verified.
They added that their discoveries could provide a macroscopic perspective with the potential to improve knowledge regarding not just the molecular mechanisms of medicinal plants or dietary supplements, but also the development of therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer's.
In conclusion, they wrote: "The establishment of networks between AD-related protein targets and compounds in G. biloba may have important implications for elucidating the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of G. biloba on AD.
"Conceivably, a novel therapeutic strategy for AD may be developed from the protein targets and pathways identified in the present study. Hopefully, a novel paradigm presented in this study would help facilitate natural medicine development and the construction of a herbal compound library."
"In Silico Investigation of the Pharmacological Mechanisms of Beneficial Effects of Ginkgo biloba L. on Alzheimer’s Disease"
Authors: Hongxiang Li, et al.