An estimated 1.1 to 10.64 million Americans have Essential Tremor (ET). However, many people are misdiagnosed or simply go undiagnosed because they do not seek medical treatment. This neurological movement disorder causes shaking of the hands, head, voice, and occasionally legs and trunk, sometimes leading to a dramatic decrease in quality of life. Previous studies have found that ethanol, 1-octanol, and its primary metabolite have the potential to become therapeutic agents for people with ET. Nonetheless, ethanol, a two-carbon chain alcohol that is extensively used in alcoholic beverages and fragrances, can make patients more susceptible to misuse of alcohol and overdose during self-medication. In response to these concerns regarding the use of ethanol for the relief of ET symptoms, other molecules became the subject of study. In pilot studies, 1-octanol greatly decreased tremor intensity over longer periods of time in comparison to ethanol. Despite 1-octanol’s success, researchers are unclear if 1-octanol or its primary metabolite, octanoic acid, is responsible for the therapeutic effects. Moreover, in most, if not all, current research, the mechanism by which these molecules reduce tremor intensity and amplitude is very poorly understood.
Partition coefficients suggest that both ethanol and 1-octanol will integrate into cell membranes, thereby altering the lipid composition. Through the use of electrophysiology experiments, this research qualitatively and quantitatively determines the impact of ethanol, 1-octanol, and octanoic acid on lipid bilayer physical properties. This data was obtained by measuring the lifetime of gramicidin A in planar lipid bilayers in the presence and absence of these compounds. These measured effects on model cell membranes may indicate a mechanism behind the tremorreducing properties of potential ET therapeutics.
Jennifer Aguayo, ’18
Sponsor: Jai Shanata