Up to 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, a condition marked by progressive mental deterioration, and for those who want to up their chances of avoiding the disease, the spice turmeric may hold the key.
Findings of a new research suggest that a compound found in turmeric, which is often used in curries and in Indian cuisine, can help boost the growth of nerve cells believed to play a role in the brain's ability to heal itself.
For the new study published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy on Sept. 26, Maria Adele Rueger from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Jülich, Germany and colleagues bathed neural stem cells in petri dishes with aromatic-turmerone, a compound found in turmeric.
The researchers noticed that compared with other neural stem cells in the experiment, 80 percent of the stem cells treated with the chemical extract from turmeric grew into neurons or other cells. The researchers then injected the chemical into the part of the rat's brain where these cells are found and observed a similar result indicating a potential for the chemical in the field of regenerative medicine.
"In this study, we investigated the effects of ar-turmerone on NSCs in vitro and in vivo. Ar-turmerone increased the number of NSCs both in cell culture and in the adult rat brain in vivo," the researchers wrote. "We propose that ar-turmerone constitutes a promising future drug candidate to support regeneration in neurologic disorders."
The researchers said that further trials are still required before they can be certain that the same effects they have observed in rats will translate to humans, something that other experts agree on.
"We'd need to see further studies to fully understand this compound's effects in the context of a complex disease like Alzheimer's, and until then people shouldn't take this as a sign to stock up on supplies of turmeric for the spice rack," said Laura Phipps from Alzheimer's Research UK.
If the compound would achieve the same results with humans, though, it could have a potential impact on the treatment of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Parksinon's, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis and Huntington's disease.
Neuro-degenerative diseases are characterized by the deterioration of the cells in the brain and spinal cord and often affects middle-aged to older adults. The Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center reveals that if nothing is done about neuro-degenerative diseases, over 12 million Americans will suffer from these conditions 30 years from now.