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Published on: September 26, 2014
by Jo Willey for Express:
Scientists have discovered that an ingredient in the spice turmeric, used in curries, could help repair patients’ brains.
Oil isolated from it can trigger the rapid growth of stem cells and their development into neurons, which the brain uses to process and transmit information.
The breakthrough paves the way for the creation of new drugs which could potentially treat a host of cruelly debilitating conditions from dementia to stroke.
Dr Adele Rueger, of the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany, said: “While several substances promote stem cell proliferation in the brain, fewer drugs additionally promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which constitutes a major goal in regenerative medicine. Our findings take us one step closer to achieving this goal.”
In laboratory tests, researchers found aromatic turmerone, one of two main compounds in turmeric, boosted the production of brain cells in rats by up to 80 per cent. And injections of oil produced from the compound led to growth in two key brain regions.
The human brain naturally contains stem cells that will trigger a regenerative response following injury such as stroke. But this regeneration is incomplete in adults.
So scientists are trying to develop treatments which will activate the stem cells and effectively allow the brain to repair itself.
The second compound in turmeric, curcumin, is a well known anti-inflammatory agent and is reputed to have anti-cancer properties.
Previous research has shown that curcumin could prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s because it has been found to dissolve the deposits of amyloid protein in the brain which are commonly found in people with the disease.
Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This early stage study highlights the effects of aromatic turmerone in rat brains but the findings are a long way from determining whether this compound could help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s.
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