Pamela Maher, a researcher in the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, has received a two-year, $330,000 grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to further study fisetin, a promising lead for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Fisetin is a naturally occurring flavonoid commonly found in strawberries and other fruits and vegetables.
Maher hit upon fisetin's neuroprotective abilities when she screened a collection of flavonoids, substances with anti-oxidant activities found in many plants. In these experiments, fisetin promoted the survival of cultured nerve cells in response to a variety of toxic insults and boosted memory in healthy mice — making it a promising candidate for further studies.
Upon completion of the studies, Maher hopes to have a fisetin derivative that is more effective at a lower dose than fisetin, while also maintaining all of its other beneficial properties, including boosting intracellular levels of GSH, an antioxidant produced naturally by cells.