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Ginkgo Biloba Extract (EGb 761) and CNS Functions Basic Studies and Clinical Applications

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The effects of EGb 761 on the CNS underlie one of its major therapeutic indications i.e., individuals suffering from deteriorating cerebral mechanisms related to age-associated impairments of memory, attention and other cognitive functions. EGb 761 is currently used as symptomatic treatment for cerebral insufficiency that occurs during normal ageing or which may be due to degenerative dementia, vascular dementia or mixed forms of both, and for neurosensory disturbances. Depressive symptoms of patients with Alzheimers disease (AD) and aged non-Alzheimer patients may also respond to treatment with EGb 761 since this extract has an anti-stress effect. Basic and clinical studies, conducted both in vitro and in vivo, support these beneficial neuroprotective effects of EGb 761. EGb 761 has several major actions it enhances cognition, improves blood rheology and tissue metabolism, and opposes the detrimental effects of ischaemia. Several mechanisms of action are useful in explaining how EGb 761 benefits patients with AD and other age-related, neurodegenerative disorders. In animals, EGb 761 possesses antioxidant and free radical-scavenging activities, it reverses age-related losses in brain alpha1-adrenergic, 5-HT1A and muscarinic receptors, protects against ischaemic neuronal death, preserves the function of the hippocampal mossy fiber system, increases hippocampal high-affinity choline uptake, inhibits the down-regulation of hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors, enhances neuronal plasticity, and counteracts the cognitive deficits that follow stress or traumatic brain injury. Identified chemical constituents of EGb 761 have been associated with certain actions. Both flavonoid and ginkgolide constituents are involved in the free radical-scavenging and antioxidant effects of EGb 761 which decrease tissue levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and inhibit membrane lipid peroxidation. Regarding EGb 761-induced regulation of cerebral glucose utilization, bilobalide increases the respiratory control ratio of mitochondria by protecting against uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation, thereby increasing ATP levels, a result that is supported by the finding that bilobalide increases the expression of the mitochondrial DNA-encoded COX III subunit of cytochrome oxidase. With regard to its anti-stress effect, EGb 761 acts via its ginkgolide constituents to decrease the expression of the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR) of the adrenal cortex.
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Keywords: Alzheimer s disease; Bilbalide; CNS; Egb 761; Flavonoid; Ginkgolide; Lipid peroxidation; Non Alzheimer; Peripheral benzodiazepine receptor PBR; Reactive oxygen species

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: July 1, 2000

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