By Raaga Pulya
Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are both neurological diseases which specifically affect the central nervous system. Parkinson’s causes tremors in patients and Alzheimer causes memory loss. Parkinson’s is caused due the oxidative stress and the free radicals attack protein, lipids, and DNA. This causes lewy bodies which are clumping of the alpha-synuclein protein. These clumps destroy neurons and disrupt the activity inside the brain. This affects the three main neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Without these neurotransmitters, the connection between the basal ganglia and substantia nigra is cut off, causing tremors and slow movement in Parkinson’s patients. Additionally, the loss of these neurotransmitters causes depression and/or anxiety in 50% of patients. Alzheimer’s is caused by the accumulation of beta-amyloid. Similar to lewy bodies, this sticky peptide clumps together and kills neurons in the brain. This is stated in the beta-amyloid cascade hypothesis. The accumulation of beta-amyloid is also due to oxidative stress. Currently, levodopa is a treatment for Parkinson’s, and there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s. I wanted to find ways to help treat these diseases in natural ways. To do this, I came up with turmeric, ashwagandha, honey, and Ginkgo biloba. All of these substances increase the three main neurotransmitters and help treat oxidative stress. I decided to test this on C. elegans, a nematode worm, which reproduces very quickly and has a lifespan of 2-3 weeks. I ordered C. elegans mutated to have an over expression of the LRRK2 gene (oxidative stress) for Parkinson’s and C. elegans mutated to have an over expression of the dvls19 gene (beta-amyloid) for Alzheimer’s. To fully ensure the first set of C. elegans had an over expression of oxidative stress, I added black walnut powder which contains juglone.