A team of researchers from the University of California Los Angeles has discovered, through a rare experiment involving human cells, that a chemical in curry may help treat Alzheimer's disease.
The research team led by Dr. Milan Fiala said on Tuesday that the chemical curcumin helped enhance the immune system's ability to fight the disease. The research team published their results in the latest issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).
Curcumin is a yellow colorant in curry and has gained much attention for its reputed ability to battle Alzheimer's.
In an e-mail interview with the Chosun Ilbo, Prof. Fiala said, "Curcumin may help treat Alzheimer's disease by enhancing the immune system's ability to ingest an abnormal protein that squeezes brain cells." Like plaque forms around germs on your teeth, the abnormal protein amyloid beta forms plaque in the brain, causing brain cells to malfunction. That's how Alzheimer's disease develops.
The research team extracted macrophage cells from Alzheimer patients which gobble up waste products in the blood like pathogens and amyloid beta. The team treated the macrophages with a drug derived from curcumin and found that the treated macrophages were better at ingesting amyloid beta.
Prof. Fiala said, "In our experiment we used a drug derived from curcumin, so it remains unclear how effective natural curcumin might be at treating Alzheimer's. We are planning more studies including clinical trials with Alzheimer patients."
Dr. Baik Hyun-wook at the Department of Gastroenterology of Bundang Jesaeng Hospital said, "Curcumin is widely known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. The research team's test using human cells instead of animal cells is a very rare case."