UCLA-VA study names India dietary staple as potential Alzheimer's weapon

A dietary staple of India, where Alzheimer's disease rates are reportedly among the world's lowest, holds potential as a weapon in the fight against the disease.

The new UCLA-Veterans Affairs study involving genetically altered mice suggests that curcumin, the yellow pigment in curry spice, inhibits the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and also breaks up existing plaques.

Reporting in the Dec. 7, 2004, online edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the research team also determined curcumin is more effective in inhibiting formation of the protein fragments than many other drugs being tested as Alzheimer's treatments. The researchers found the low molecular weight and polar structure of curcumin allow it to penetrate the blood-brain barrier effectively and bind to beta amyloid.

In earlier studies (Journal of Neuroscience, 2001; 21:8370-8377; Neurobiology of Aging, 2001; 22:993-1005), the same research team found curcumin has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which scientists believe help ease Alzheimer's symptoms caused by oxidation and inflammation.

The research team's body of research into curcumin has prompted the UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) to begin human clinical trials to further evaluate its protective and therapeutic effects. More information about enrolling in this and other clinical trials at the Center is available by calling (310) 206-3779 or online at http://www.npistat.com/adrc/Treatment.asp.

"The prospect of finding a safe and effective new approach to both prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease is tremendously exciting," said principal investigator Gregory Cole. He is professor of medicine and neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, associate director of the UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, and associate

Contact: Dan Page
University of California - Los Angeles

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