By Holly Rogers
Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been shown to prevent protein clumping in the brain. This clumping has been recognised as an early stage of Parkinson’s disease.
Scientists at Michigan State University have used lasers to watch proteins being rescued by curcumin, building on research released earlier this year into the mechanism of clumping.
“Our research shows that curcumin can rescue proteins from aggregation, the first steps to many debilitating diseases,” said Lisa Lapidus, co-author of the study.
Proteins are needed to carry out most of the work done by cells, and are built through a process known as folding. If the protein does not fold fast enough, it begins to clump and bind to other proteins around it. Curcumin not only stops this binding from happening, but speeds up the folding process, lowering the chances of it starting again. However, there is still more research to be done before curcumin becomes a routine treatment.
“Curcumin’s usefulness as an actual drug may be pretty limited since it doesn’t go into the brain easily,” said Professor Lapidus. “But this kind of study showcases the technique of measuring reconfiguration and opens the door for developing drug treatments.”
Curcumin is being currently investigated for possible benefits in various clinical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, and some types of cancer.
B. Ahmad and L. J. Lapidus, Curcumin Prevents Aggregation in α-synuclein by Increasing the Reconfiguration Rate, Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2012.
You can find the original article here: http://www.jbc.org/content/287/12/9193.abstract