Turmeric boosts brain repair

Repair of the brain may be boosted by the curry spice turmeric.The yellow spice which is commonly found in curries has been shown help brain cells regenerate.

turmeric may boost brain repair

The journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy reported a study this week. The research was carried out in Germany and suggests a compound aromatic-turmerone found in turmeric could encourage the growth of nerve cells thought to be part of the brain's repair kit. The study was carried out on rats and may enable the development of drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease or strokes. However more research is required to see whether turmeric has the same effect on humans.

Spice injection with aromatic-turmerone

Scientists at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany, looked at the effects of aromatic-turmerone - a bioactive compound which is found naturally in turmeric. Rats had brain scans before after receiving injections of aromatic-turmerone.  

Particular parts of the brain, known to be involved in nerve cell growth, were seen to be more active after the aromatic-turmerone infusion. Scientists say the compound may encourage a proliferation. 

In a separate part of the trial, researchers bathed rodent neural stem cells (NSCs) in different concentrations of aromatic-tumerone extract. NSCs have the ability to transform into any type of brain cell and scientists suggest they could have a role in repair after damage or disease.

Dr Maria Adele Rueger, who was part of the research team, said: "In humans and higher developed animals their abilities do not seem to be sufficient to repair the brain but in fish and smaller animals they seem to work well."

The research found the higher the concentration of aromatic-turmerone, the greater the growth of the NSCs. And the cells bathed in the turmeric compound seemed to specialise into certain types of brain cells more rapidly too.

turmeric and ginger picture - turmeric contains aromatic-turmerone which may aid brain cell repair

Dr Rueger added: "It is interesting that it might be possible to boost the effectiveness of the stem cells with aromatic-turmerone. "And it is possible this in turn can help boost repair in the brain."

She is now considering whether human trials may be feasible.

Alzheimers's Disease and Turmeric 

Dr Laura Phipps at the charity, Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "It is not clear whether the results of this research would translate to people, or whether the ability to generate new brain cells in this way would benefit people with Alzheimer's disease. "We'd need to see further studies to fully understand this compound's effects in the context of a complex disease like Alzheimer's, and until then people shouldn't take this as a sign to stock up on supplies of turmeric for the spice rack."

Aromatic-turmerone is the lesser-studied of two major compounds in turmeric that may have an effect on the human body. Previous studies suggest the other compound, curcumin, could reduce inflammation in the body and have anti-cancer benefits.

More detail

The findings suggest aromatic turmerone could be a future drug candidate for treating neurological disorders, such as stroke and Alzheimer's disease. The study looked at the effects of aromatic (ar-) turmerone on endogenous neutral stem cells (NSC), which are stem cells found within adult brains. NSC differentiate into neurons, and play an important role in self-repair and recovery of brain function in neurodegenerative diseases.

Previous studies of ar-turmerone have shown that the compound can block activation of microglia cells. When activated, these cells cause neuroinflammation, which is associated with different neurological disorders. However, ar-turmerone's impact on the brain's capacity to self-repair was unknown.

Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Jülich, Germany, studied the effects of ar-turmerone on NSC proliferation and differentiation both in vitro and in vivo.

Rat fetal NSC were cultured and grown in six different concentrations of ar-turmerone over a 72 hour period. At certain concentrations, ar-turmerone was shown to increase NSC proliferation by up to 80%, without having any impact on cell death. The cell differentiation process also accelerated in ar-turmerone-treated cells compared to untreated control cells.

To test the effects of ar-turmerone on NSC in vivo, the researchers injected adult rats with ar-turmerone. Using PET imaging and a tracer to detect proliferating cells, they found that the subventricular zone (SVZ) was wider, and the hippocampus expanded, in the brains of rats injected with ar-turmerone than in control animals.

The SVZ and hippocampus are the two sites in adult mammalian brains where neurogenesis, the growth of neurons, is known to occur.

Lead author of the study, Adele Rueger, said:

"While several substances have been described to 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 on aromatic turmerone take us one step closer to achieving this goal."

Ar-turmerone is the lesser-studied of two major bioactive compounds found in turmeric. The other compound is curcumin, which is well known for its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.

Read the original research here: Source