Turmeric 'may cure Alzheimer's'17th July 2007
Turmeric, a distinctive yellow spice found in many Indian dishes, has been found to possess compounds which may fight Alzheimer's disease, according to a US study.
Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles said they have managed to isolate a compound in turmeric, and found it can stimulate immune system cells into a response against the incurable and fatal condition.
Led by Milan Fiala, the research team said they had already shown in previous studies that an antioxidant found in turmeric, known as curcumin, could affect the brain cells of Alzheimer's patients.
But this was the first time they had been able to isolate the precise, complex compound which was the most active ingredient, they said in a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Other research has shown that curcumin, an antioxidant found in turmeric, can help prevent tumours from forming in the laboratory and in rats.
The LA team isolated bisdemethoxycurcumin and determined it was the most active ingredient in curcumin.
Using blood samples from Alzheimer's patients, they found that the compound boosted immune cells called macrophages to clear a protein called amyloid beta, which clogs the brains of Alzheimer's patients and kills brain cells.
Macrophages are the immune cells that engulf and destroy deformed cells and attack invaders, like bacteria or viruses.
While it was not yet clear if enough of the antioxidant could be taken by people simply by eating turmeric, the team said sufficient levels in the brain could be achieved instead by infusion.
Some studies have suggested that people who eat a lot of curry may be less prone to cancer and Alzheimer's, but whether curry is responsible is unclear.
The researchers said their findings could take Alzheimer's treatment in a promising new direction by treating the damage done by Alzheimer's directly in the brain.
Current research and development is focusing on a vaccine which would stimulate the production of antibodies against the harmful protein, amyloid beta.
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