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Effects of Red Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus) Extract on Spinal Motor Neuron Survival and Gliosis in the G93A Mutant hSOD1 Mouse Model of ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal disorder characterized by progressive degeneration of motor neurons due to various factors such as inflammation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Betacyanins are a type of nutraceutical found in red dragon fruit which have been shown to demonstrate anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and free-radical scavenging properties. These features of betacyanins indicate that they could be beneficial in slowing disease progression in ALS. This study explored the therapeutic effects of red dragon fruit extract (DFE) on spinal motor neuron survival and gliosis in a transgenic mouse model of ALS (G93A hSOD1). The groups consisted of three sex-matched littermates, two G93A hSOD1 mutant mice, and one wildtype (WT) control mouse. The treated ALS mouse received DFE ad libitum (5% v/v in water), and the other mutant and WT got regular water. All of the mice were euthanized when the untreated mutant reached end-stage of the disease (at approximately 120 days of age), when their hind limbs are paralyzed, and it cannot flip over when put on its back. Lumbar spinal cord tissues were collected and immunostained for astrogliosis, microgliosis, and alpha motor neurons. Each staining method was done to compare how the DFE might have a protective effect on the histopathological symptoms observed in ALS. The stained tissue was imaged using a fluorescent microscope, then quantified to compare the number of alpha motor neurons and gliosis between the treated and untreated ALS mice. The treated G93A hSOD1 mice show less inflammation and a higher number of alpha motor neurons compared to the untreated mutants, indicating that DFE could be a novel therapeutic treatment for ALS.