New research suggests that aromatic-tumerone, a compound found in the spice turmeric, could be used to create future drugs to treat patients with neural impairment, such as sufferers of strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at the Research Centre Juelich in Germany studied the impact that aromatic-tumerone has on neural cells by injecting the compound into the brains of rats. Scans revealed that, after being injected with the compound, the regions of the brain involved in nerve cell growth were more active.
The researchers also tested the impact of the compound directly on neural stem cells, which are cells that have the ability to transform into any type of brain cell and, in theory, should be able to repair damage or disease. But in humans and other mammals this process doesn’t seem to work so well.
"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,” Maria Adele Rueger, a neuroscientist who was part of the research team, told Smitha Mundasad from BBC News.
After treating rodent neural stem cells in different concentrations of aromatic-tumerone, the scientists found that the compound encouraged the growth of the neural stem cells - and the higher the concentration, the greater the growth.
The turmeric compound also sped up the differentiation of the stem cells. The results are published in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy.
"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,” Rueger told the BBC.
The team is now looking into human trials to find out whether the turmeric compound has the same effect on our brain cells.