Background: The deposition of amyloid peptides is associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). These amyloid peptides are derived from the amyloid protein precursor (APP). Silymarin, a standardized extract of milk thistle, which is currently used in liver diseases, may be effective in the inhibition of amyloid formation. However, its effect has not been assessed on APP expression.
Results: In this study, first, the effect of silymarin was examined on the passive avoidance learning in a rat model of AD. This model was induced by the intracerebroventricular injection of Aβ peptide (Aβ1-42) in Wistar rats. Rats were treated with 70 and 140 mg/kgof the extract, once a day, for 4 weeks. Memory function that was evaluated in a shuttle-cage test, showed improvement upon administration of this extract. Brain amyloid plaques had also decreased upon administration of the extract. Furthermore, APP gene expression was compared in treated and untreated groups. The result showed that silymarin was able to suppress APP expression.
Conclusion: Our results are in accordance with the in vitro tests concerning the positive antiamyloidogenic property of the main component of silymarin, namely silibinin. We suggest that the beneficial effect of sylimarin in the AD model is related to its capacity to disaggregate amyloid plaques and to suppress APP expression. Considering the limited side effects of silymarin, this compound could be of use in AD therapy.