Food For Thought On Alzheimer’s Treatment
A spice commonly found in curries may boost the brain’s ability to heal itself, according to a report in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy. The German study suggests a compound found in turmeric could encourage the growth of nerve cells thought to be part of the brain’s repair kit.
Scientists say this work, based in rats, may pave the way for future drugs for strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. But they say more trials are needed to see whether this applies to humans.
Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany, studied the effects of aromatic-turmerone – a compound found naturally in turmeric. Rats were injected with the compound and their brains were then scanned. Particular parts of the brain, known to be involved in nerve cell growth, were seen to be more active after the aromatic-turmerone infusion. Scientists say the compound may encourage a proliferation of brain cells.
In a separate part of the trial, researchers bathed rodent neural stem cells (NSCs) in different concentrations of aromatic-tumerone extract. NSCs have the ability to transform into any type of brain cell and scientists suggest they could have a role in repair after damage or disease.
“In humans and higher developed animals their abilities do not seem to be sufficient to repair the brain,” said Dr. Maria Adele Rueger, who was part of the research team. “But in fish and smaller animals they seem to work well.”
On a more promising note, one of the most comprehensive summaries of turmeric studies to date was published by the respected ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Phd., in the October, 2007 issue of Alternative & Complementary Therapies, and summarized in the July, 2008, issue of the American Botanical Council publication HerbClip.
Reviewing some 700 studies, Duke concluded that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic, debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects.
Duke found more than 50 studies on turmeric’s effects in addressing Alzheimer’s disease. The reports indicate that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease.