SESAME seed husks, a waste product from the manufacture of sesame seed oil, are rich in the antioxidant sesaminol.
Scientists have found that sesaminol protects nerve cells in laboratory cultures from damage and prevents Parkinson’s symptoms in an animal model of the disease.
Clinical trials are necessary to determine whether the antioxidant can prevent Parkinson’s or slow its progression in humans.
Around 1 million people in the United States and 10 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s.
It is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects dopamine-producing neurons.
It causes tremors, muscular stiffness or rigidity, and slowness of movement, among other symptoms.
Loss and degeneration of dopamine-producing neurons in a specific region of the brain called the substantia nigra causes the movement-related, or “motor,” symptoms that can characterize Parkinson’s.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, though several drug treatments can help alleviate the symptoms.
The most commonly prescribed medication for this purpose is levodopa (Sinemet), which replenishes dopamine levels.
“Currently, there is no preventive medicine for Parkinson’s disease,” notes Dr. Akiko Kojima-Yuasa, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Human Life Science at Osaka City University, in Japan, “we only have coping treatments.”
One cause of cell loss in the substantia nigra is oxidative stress. This led Dr. Kojima-Yuasa and colleagues to investigate whether sesaminol, a powerful antioxidant, could prevent nerve cell death in a model of Parkinson’s.
Sesaminol is found in abundance in sesame seed husks, which are a waste product from the industrial extraction of sesame oil.
The researchers used a toxic chemical called 6-hydroxydopamine to model the oxidative damage that occurs in Parkinson’s.
When they applied the chemical to human nerve cells growing in lab cultures, the concentration of damaging reactive oxygen species increased, and the cells began to die off.