USF Health part of national resveratrol study for Alzheimer’s disease

Can a component found in red wine help change the course of Alzheimer’s disease?

The USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute has been selected as one of the sites for a federally-sponsored clinical study testing whether resveratrol can alter or delay memory deterioration and daily functioning in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. 

Some of the highest levels of resveratrol are found in red wine and the skin of red grapes, but the plant-derived compound is also present in chocolate, berries, tomatoes and peanuts.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled Resveratrol for Alzheimer’s Disease Study, supported by the National Institute on Aging, will be conducted at 26 sites across the United States affiliated with the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study. Each research site, including USF’s, will enroll up to 10 participants.

Amanda Smith, Byrd Alzheimer's Institute

Dr. Amanda Smith leads the resveratrol clinical trial at the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute.

Amanda Smith, MD, medical director at the Byrd Alzheimer’s institute, leads the USF site study on the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of the natural compound (pure resveratrol in capsule form). The one-year trial has begun recruiting participants.

“This is an exciting study for a couple of reasons,” Dr. Smith said.  “First, it is a naturally-occurring substance, and that is sometimes more appealing to participants. Secondly, it approaches the disease from a different angle than many other treatments being tested, so it could be another weapon in the multi-pronged approach to treating Alzheimer’s.”

Resveratrol activates a class of enzymes known as sirtuins, which are involved in modulating metabolism and may affect regulatory pathways of diseases of aging. Pre-clinical research and pilot clinical studies suggest the compound may prevent diabetes, ward off cardiovascular disease, act as a natural cancer fighter, and prevent memory loss, but there has been no large definitive study of its effects in humans. 

“It’s a hot topic of research interest these days,” said Min You, PhD, associate professor in the USF Health Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, whose published studies of resveratrol in mice found that the substance may prevent alcoholic fatty liver disease. 

“SIRT1, one of the targets of resveratrol, is a metabolic sensor in every tissue of the body, including the heart, liver and brain,” Dr. You said. “Resveratrol keeps metabolic processes in balance and plays a role in longevity.”

Min You, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology

Dr. Min You, associate professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology, studies resveratrol and its regulatory pathways in the laboratory.

Dr. You, who has studied resveratrol and its regulatory pathways for nearly eight years, believes the compound may have greater potential to prevent than treat age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. “It’s quickly removed from the bloodstream when consumed, so you’d likely have to take a very high amount of resveratrol to reverse pathology,” she said. “However chronic consumption of low-dose resveratrol could be good as a preventive approach.”

For more information on the Resveratrol for Alzheimer’s Disease Study, call the Byrd Institute at (813) 974-4355.