July 16, 2007 -- A chemical in the curry spice turmeric might inspire new Alzheimer's disease treatments, a new study shows.
They included Milan Fiala, MD, who works at the medical school of the University of California at Los Angeles and at the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Curry Chemical Studied
First, Fiala's team studied yellowish-orange oils called curcuminoids, which are found in turmeric.
The scientists searched for the most promising curcuminoid compound and found it to be chemical called bisdemethoxycurcumin.
Next, the researchers pitted the curry chemical against an Alzheimer's brain plaque protein called amyloid beta.
That experiment was done in test tubes containing the curry compound, amyloid beta, and blood from people with and without Alzheimer's disease.
The scientists already knew that Alzheimer's makes it hard for immune system cells called macrophages to get rid of amyloid beta.
The curry spice chemical helped overcome that problem in the lab tests. Basically, the macrophages in Alzheimer's patients' blood were better at deleting amyloid beta when the curry chemical was present.
Will eating lots of curry or taking a pill achieve that effect?
That's not clear, but blood infusions of bisdemethoxycurcumin might achieve the right blood level of the curry chemical, according to the study. Right now, that's just a theory. The scientists haven't tried the curry chemical as an Alzheimer's treatment yet.
The study appears in this week's online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.