Turmeric-based drug being tested against Alzheimer’s

February 15th, 2012 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Stockholm, Feb 15 (IANS) Curcumin, a compound of turmeric commonly used in Indian curries, prolongs life and boosts activity of fruit flies with a nervous disorder similar to Alzheimer’s disease that afflicts millions of older people across the world.

The study led by Ina Caesar of Linkoping University (Sweden), indicates that it is the initial stages of fibril (threadlike fibre or filament, constituent of a cell) formation and fragments of the amyloid fibrils that are most toxic to nerve cells (neurons).

For several years, curcumin has been studied as a possible drug candidate to combat Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized by the accumulation of sticky amyloid-beta and Tau protein fibres, the journal Public Library of Science reports.

Linkoping researchers wanted to investigate how the substance affected genetically engineered fruit flies, which developed evident Alzheimer’s symptoms. The fruit fly is increasingly used as a model for neurodegenerative diseases, according to a Linkoping statement.

Five groups of diseased flies with different genetic manipulations were administered curcumin. They lived up to 75 percent longer and maintained their mobility longer than the sick flies that did not receive the substance.

However, the scientists saw no decrease of amyloid in the brain or eyes. Curcumin did not dissolve the amyloid plaque (tangles of amyloid protein in nervous tissue); on the contrary it accelerated the formation of fibres by reducing the amount of their precursor forms, known as oligomers.

“The results confirm our belief that it is the oligomers that are most harmful to the nerve cells,” says study co-author Per Hammarstrom, professor at Linkoping.

“We now see that small molecules in an animal model can influence the amyloid form. To our knowledge the encapsulation of oligomers is a new and exciting treatment strategy,” he added.

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