The molecule on the left is (1E,6E)-1,7-bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione, better known, for obvious reasons, as curcumin (C21H20O6), the active ingredient in the curry spice tumeric. It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and, if a recent study is anything to go by, is also anti-amyloidogenic.
A team of researchers at UCLA’s David Geffen Medical Centre an the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System has obtained evidence that curcumin may help the immune system clear amyloid plaques, which are characteristic of Alzheimer’s, from the brain.
The team, led by Milan Fiala, isolated macrophages from blood samples taken from Alzheimer’s patients and healthy controls. The cells were cultured and treated for 24 hours with a curcumin-derived drug. Amyloid-beta protein was then introduced into the cell cultures.
“Curcumin improved ingestion of amyloid beta by immune cells in 50 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Fiala, “demonstrat[ing] that curcumin may help boost the immune system of specific Alzheimer’s disease patients.”
These preliminary data seem promising, but the sample size is tiny – only 6 Alzheimer’s patients were enrolled in the study. However, previous work has shown that curcumin can inhibit the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and disaggregate plaques in mice with advanced accumulations of the malformed protein. Nor can it be a mere coincidence that India, where curry is staple, has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the world.
Another recent study provided some evidence that Cabernet Sauvignon may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Would anyone like to join me for a chicken jalfrezi accompanied with a bottle of red wine?