An after-school study by two teenagers in Canada found that maple syrup protects neurons and halts the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in an animal model of the disease. While the study was intended for educational purposes, its discoveries that might be of interest to drug developers.
The students, Catherine Aaron and Gabrielle Beaudry, worked with neuroscience researchers in the laboratory of Alex Parker at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre. Earlier studies led by Dr. Parker have shown that sugar has a protective effect on neurons in a model of ALS using the worm C. elegans. While this simple organism differs significantly from the complex biology of humans, it is often used to study particular aspects of human disease — such as neuroprotection — since we share an astonishing amount of genes.
“We wanted to test the effect of a natural product on a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. Professor Parker had already discovered that sugar prevents the occurrence of ALS in an animal model of the disease, the C. elegans worm. That’s how we got the idea of maple syrup, a natural sugar produced in Quebec,” Beaudry said in a press release.