As per researchers, intake of caffeine could possibly boost an enzyme in brain and save a person from various brain diseases like dementia. The study appears in the journal Scientific Reports.The protective effect of the enzyme, called NMNAT2, was discovered last year through research conducted at IU Bloomington. “This work could help advance efforts to develop drugs that increase levels of this enzyme in the brain, creating a chemical `blockade` against the debilitating effects of neurodegenerative disorders,” said Hui-Chen Lu, who led the study. Lu is a Gill Professor in the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, a part of the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences. Previously, Lu and colleagues found that NMNAT2 plays two roles in the brain: a protective function to guard neurons from stress and a “chaperone function” to combat misfolded proteins called tau, which accumulate in the brain as “plaques” due to aging. The study was the first to reveal the “chaperone function” in the enzyme.Misfolded proteins have been linked to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer`s, Parkinson`s and Huntington`s diseases, as well as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig`s disease. Alzheimer`s disease, the most common form of these disorders, affects over 5.4 million Americans, with numbers expected to rise as the population ages. To identify substances with the potential to affect the production of the NMNAT2 enzyme in the brain, Lu`s team screened over 1,280 compounds, including existing drugs, using a method developed in her lab. A total of 24 compounds were identified as having potential to increase the production of NMNAT2 in the brain. One of the substances shown to increase production of the enzyme was caffeine, which also has been shown to improve memory function in mice genetically modified to produce high levels of misfolded tau proteins.