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Lee Swanson Research Update

Curcumin Shows Promise for Parkinson's Patients

April 5, 2012

Intake of the spice curcumin (turmeric) could help reduce clumping of proteins associated with the onset of Parkinson’s disease, according to new research.

The study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, reports that the compound found in the spice curcumin could one day be effective in preventing or reducing Parkinson’s by blocking the clumping (aggregation) action of proteins involved in the disease.

Researchers from Michigan State University found that the spice prevents aggregation of a protein known as alpha-synuclein by forcing it to scatter.

“Our research shows that curcumin can rescue proteins from aggregation, the first steps of many debilitating diseases,” said Professor Lisa Lapidus, who co-authored the paper. “More specifically, curcumin binds strongly to alpha-synuclein and prevents aggregation at body temperatures,” she added.

The researchers said that when curcumin binds to alpha-synuclein it not only stops clumping, but it also speeds up the protein’s folding and reconfiguration. By increasing the speed, the spice compound makes protein avoid clumping with other proteins as it is prone to when it folds more slowly.

Lapidus said the study opens the door for new developments as it showcases the potential for measuring and altering the reconfiguration of proteins that can lead to serious health issues.

Lapidus’ team said that shedding light on the process by correlating the speed at which protein folds with its tendency to clump or bind with other proteins could help future research and development activities.

Curcumin has increasingly come under the scientific spotlight in recent years, with studies investigating its potential health benefits. As a result, curcumin has been linked to a range of health benefits, including potential protection against Alzheimer’s, heart failure, diabetes and arthritis.

Journal of Biological Chemistry 287(12):9193-9199, 2012

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