Metabolic Brain Disease

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 1747–1759 | Cite as

Safranal, an active ingredient of saffron, attenuates cognitive deficits in amyloid β-induced rat model of Alzheimer’s disease: underlying mechanisms

  • Tourandokht BaluchnejadmojaradEmail author
  • Seyed-Mahdi Mohamadi-Zarch
  • Mehrdad Roghani
Original Article


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most prevalent neurodegenerative amyloid disorder with progressive deterioration of cognitive and memory skills. Despite many efforts, no decisive therapy yet exists for AD. Safranal is the active constituent of saffron essential oil with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic properties. In this study, the possible beneficial effect of safranal on cognitive deficits was evaluated in a rat model of AD induced by intrahippocampal amyloid beta (Aβ1–40). Safranal was daily given p.o. (0.025, 0.1, and 0.2 ml/kg) post-surgery for 1 week and finally learning and memory were evaluated in addition to assessment of the involvement of oxidative stress, inflammation, and apoptosis. Findings showed that safranal treatment of amyloid β-microinjected rats dose-dependently improved cognition in Y-maze, novel-object discrimination, passive avoidance, and 8-arm radial arm maze tasks. Besides, safranal attenuated hippocampal level of malondialdehyde (MDA), reactive oxygen species (ROS), protein carbonyl, interleukin 1β (IL-1β), interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), apoptotic biomarkers including caspase 3 and DNA fragmentation, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), myeloperoxidase (MPO), and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity and improved superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) with no significant effect on nitrite, catalase activity, and glutathione (GSH). Furthermore, safranal prevented CA1 neuronal loss due to amyloid β1–40. In summary, safranal treatment of intrahippocampal amyloid beta1–40-microinjected rats could prevent learning and memory decline via neuronal protection and at a molecular level through amelioration of apoptosis, oxidative stress, inflammation, cholinesterase activity, neutrophil infiltration, and also by preservation of mitochondrial integrity.


Alzheimer’s disease Amyloid β Safranal Learning and memory Oxidative stress Inflammation 



This work was approved and financially supported by a grant from Research Council of Iran University of Medical Sciences (grant no. 96-04-30-32487).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest for this research project.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physiology, School of MedicineIran University of Medical SciencesTehranIran
  2. 2.Neurophysiology Research CenterShahed UniversityTehranIran

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