Amala Soumyanath, MD

Associate Professor
Department of Neurology
Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR

image of Dr. Amala Soumyanath
Abstract: Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, currently affects 5.3 million adults in the USA. Recent increases in federal funding for AD research recognize the urgent need for better treatments for this disease. Current FDA approved drugs for AD are either cholinesterase inhibitors or glutamate receptor antagonists. However, these drugs do not influence disease progression. A signature pathological feature of AD is the presence of of β-amyloid plaques in the brain, but in recent trials, anti-amyloid immunological agents have failed to show clinical cognitive benefits. The toxic sequelae of β-amyloid deposition have now been proposed as more relevant targets to limit AD progression. The targets include other known features of AD such as hyperphosphorylated tau protein, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and loss of synapses in affected brain regions. Centella asiatica (CA) is an edible plant that is consumed as a leafy green or component of juices in Asian countries. It also enjoys a strong reputation as a herbal nerve tonic and memory enhancer. Using multiple in vivo and in vitro approaches, we have found that CA, a traditional herbal memory enhancer, not only improves cognition, but can improve mitochondrial activity, antioxidant response and dendritic arborization, and decrease tau phosphorylation. Active compounds in CA include triterpenes and caffeoylquinic acids. These studies will be described both to illustrate models applicable to the study of anti-AD botanicals, and to showcase CA’s potential as a disease-modifying, botanical agent for AD.