A BRUSSELS sprouts-based pill for Alzheimer’s disease could be on the horizon, according to Scots scientists.

Researchers say the Christmas favourite contains a nutrient which they believe combats neurological disorders, including dementia.

They are creating a supercharged version of the acid produced by vitamin A rich vegetables such as sprouts, carrots, spinach and tomatoes and human trials could begin in the next two years.

In the body vitamin A is turned into retinoic acid, which then interacts with specific receptors and plays a vital role in the human central nervous system.

It is particularly important for the eye and brain as the embryo is developing.

In the adult brain retinoic acid is believed to play a different, more “focused” role and there are suggestions it could affect neural disorders, both degenerative and psychiatric.

Professor Peter McCaffery, of the University of Aberdeen, explained: “When we eat Brussels sprouts it increases the amount of this acid in the brain. We are not saying doubling your portion of sprouts over Christmas will stop you getting Alzheimer’s.

“That would be the wrong message. But they are good for the body, so that means they are good for the brain. The compound we are developing works on exactly the same receptors as the acid from Brussels sprouts.

“The evidence is it will boost the number of neurons and the connections between them.”

They have designed synthetic versions of retinoic acid that interact with the body’s natural receptors in the brain in a n even more powerful way than the regular type.

They hope to progress to therapeutics – mainly for Alzheimer’s but potentially Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

With the cost of drug discovery rising and the time to develop new drugs increasing, this new process is another important factor that contributed to the project being identified for further funding.

Prof McCaffery added: “We are basically trying to create a massively amplified version of what vitamin A already does for the body.

“By exploiting the natural consequences of retinoic acid by creating a synthetic alternative, we hope to be able to create a new therapeutic which could be used to help people with Alzheimer’s disease.”