For centuries, extracts from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree have been used as Chinese herbal medicine to treat a variety of health disorders. The standardized Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 was marketed in France and Germany 30 years ago for various vascular and cerebral deficits and is now classified as a food supplement in the United States. EGb 761 is currently the focus of phase-III clinical trials, GEM and GuidAge studies, to evaluate its efficacy on the prevention of Alzheimers disease (AD) in subjects over 70 years old. This review summarizes recent advancements in our understanding of the potential role of EGb 761 in the prevention of AD. Besides its well-known free radical scavenging properties, the ability of EGb 761 to protect neurons probably also involves other intracellular pathways. We will point out potential targets of EGb 761 in the amyloid cascade such as its antiamyloidogenic properties or the regulation of gene expression. Moreover we will discuss the complexity of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of EGb 761 and the significance of the synergic effect of different constituents of EGb 761.
Keywords: Free radical scavenger, oxidative stress, β-amyloid synthesis, neurotoxicity, cholesterol, apoptosis, regulation of genes expression
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