Within the science labs of the University of South Carolina, Dr. Rose Booze is researching a compound found in licorice root that could potentially prevent or slow the process of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
The Bicentennial Chair Professor in Behavioral Neuroscience at USC’s College of Arts and Sciences, Booze is isolating liquiritigenin (LQ) and testing its effects on brain cells.
We’re testing the ability of plant-derived phytoestrogens, such as genistein and LQ, to help nerve cells survive in neurodegenerative diseases and keep neurons connected and functional. We want to maintain that brain plasticity.
Booze has done work on similar phytoestrogens found in soybeans and other plants, but she says creating synthetic forms of these naturally occurring compounds is difficult to do in a lab.
Funded by a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Booze’s research is the first ever done on LQ and the first to test some of these phytoestrogens in the brain.
Booze shares a personal attachment to the research.
My father has severe Parkinson’s, so I understand what families go through and how desperate the need is for any neuroprotective therapeutic, and this work with phytoestrogens opens up a whole new era of research for neuroscientists.