Coffee Grounds Show Promise For Neurodegenerative Disorders Treatment

Neurodegenerative disorders, affecting millions of people in the United States, incur significant financial costs for care, amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Coffee Grounds Show Promise For Neurodegenerative Disorders Treatment

A team of researchers from The University of Texas at El Paso has made a groundbreaking discovery that could potentially revolutionize the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. The solution? Used coffee grounds, a material discarded daily from homes and businesses worldwide.

Led by Jyotish Kumar, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and overseen by Dr. Mahesh Narayan, a professor and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the same department, the team explored the therapeutic potential of Caffeic-acid based Carbon Quantum Dots (CACQDs) derived from spent coffee grounds.

The results, published in the November issue of the journal Environmental Research, suggest that these CACQDs could protect brain cells from the damage associated with neurodegenerative diseases triggered by factors such as obesity, age, and exposure to pesticides and other toxic environmental chemicals.

Neurodegenerative disorders, affecting millions of people in the United States, incur significant financial costs for care, amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Current treatments for these conditions only manage symptoms and do not address the underlying causes. Kumar and his team aim to develop a transformative solution by targeting the atomic and molecular foundations of these diseases.

Characterized by the loss of neurons or brain cells, neurodegenerative diseases hinder basic functions such as movement, speech, bladder and bowel control, and cognitive abilities. The researchers noted common traits in the early stages of these disorders, including elevated levels of harmful free radicals in the brain and the aggregation of amyloid-forming proteins, leading to plaques or fibrils in the brain.

In their experiments, CACQDs demonstrated neuroprotective properties across various models of Parkinson’s disease, particularly when caused by exposure to the pesticide paraquat.

The CACQDs effectively removed free radicals and inhibited the aggregation of amyloid protein fragments without significant side effects. The researchers hypothesize that CACQDs could be effective in preventing the progression of conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in their very early stages.

Dr. Narayan emphasized the critical need to address these disorders before reaching the clinical stage, as treatments for advanced symptoms become economically unfeasible for most individuals. The goal is to provide a solution that can prevent the majority of cases of neurodegenerative conditions at a manageable cost for patients.

Caffeic acid, a compound belonging to the polyphenol family with antioxidant properties, serves as the basis for CACQDs. What sets caffeic acid apart is its ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, enabling it to exert its effects on brain cells. The researchers use an environmentally friendly process known as “green chemistry” to extract CACQDs from used coffee grounds, making the approach both economical and sustainable.

In their lab, the team employs a method that involves “cooking” samples of coffee grounds at 200 degrees for four hours, reorienting the carbon structure of caffeic acid to form CACQDs. The abundance of coffee grounds ensures the process’s economic viability and sustainability.

Supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the research involves the collaboration of numerous graduate and undergraduate students at UTEP. The team, including Sofia Delgado, a former UTEP undergraduate student now pursuing a Ph.D. at Yale University, is seeking additional funding for further testing.

While acknowledging that the finish line is still distant, both Dr. Narayan and Kumar express optimism about the potential impact of their research. The journey may lead to the development of a medication – possibly in pill form – that could prevent the majority of neurodegenerative disorders triggered by non-genetic factors. The research opens new avenues in the quest for innovative and sustainable approaches to address pressing global health challenges.