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Native plants treat ataxia—and could help with epilepsy

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Simple plants used by Native Americans help treat ataxia, a range of conditions that affect co-ordination and mobility.

Researchers from the University of California at Irvine are hopeful the plant extracts could also slow the development of epilepsy.

They have been investigating the properties of nettle, bladderwrack kelp and Pacific ninebank, which are traditional medicinal plants used by the Kwakwaka’wakw people who live on Vancouver Island and British Columbia in Canada.

The tannic acids and gallic acids in the plants block potassium channels that allow ataxia—a condition that affects co-ordination, balance, and speech—to develop.  They also correct mutation-carrying proteins, and the same mutations can cause epilepsy, the researchers have found.  

Their research has so far been confined to mice studies, but the researchers plan to move to preclinical trials involving people very soon.

Gallic acid is already available as a nutritional supplement.

References
Nature Communications, 2023; 14: doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-38834-6
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