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Scientists Cook Up Spicy Dish to Help Stroke Victims

February 21, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Whether or not you’re a fan of Indian, Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern food, stroke researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center say you might become fond of one of their key spices.

Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid of the popular Indian spice turmeric, which is a member of the ginger family.  Turmeric is currently being investigated for possible benefits in Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, arthritis, and other clinical disorders as well.
 
In the latter half of the 20th century, curcumin was identified as responsible for most of the biological effects of turmeric.  According to a 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal, research activity into curcumin and turmeric is increasing, with supplement sales increased 35 percent from 2004.  The U.S. National Institutes of Health currently has registered 19 clinical trials underway to study use of dietary turmeric and curcumin for a variety of clinical disorders.

In due course, scientists have designed a new molecule from curcumin, a chemical component of the golden-colored spice turmeric, and found in laboratory experiments that it affects mechanisms that protect and help regenerate brain cells after stroke.

Only one drug has been approved for ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot blocks blood flow to the brain.  Commonly called a “clot-busting drug,” tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is injected intravenously to dissolve clots and reinstate blood flow.  If blood and oxygen are restored in time, consequences of the stroke, such as speech, memory, movement and other impairments may be reduced.

The novel curcumin-hybrid compound ““ CNB-001 ““ does not attack clots but alternatively repairs stroke damage at the molecular level that feeds and supports the essential brain cells, neurons. Conversely, curcumin has more than a few drawbacks, especially as an emergency stroke treatment, which must be quick to be effective: It is not well absorbed in the body, fails to reach its target in high concentrations, becomes depleted quickly, and is blocked from entering the brain by a natural protective mechanism called the blood-brain barrier. “CNB-001 has many of the same benefits of curcumin but appears to be a better choice of compound for acute stroke because it crosses the blood-brain barrier, is quickly distributed in the brain, and moderates several critical mechanisms involved in neuronal survival,” which Paul A. Lapchak, Ph.D., director of Translational Research in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was quoted as saying.

When brain tissue is deprived of blood and oxygen, a cascading series of interconnected events triggers at the molecular level, breaking down the standard electrical and chemical “signaling pathways” responsible for nourishing and supporting neurons.  The environment rapidly becomes toxic, killing brain cells and destroying their support structures.

Hypothetically, interrupting these detrimental events and restoring regular pathway function may thwart cell death as well as the memory and behavioral deficits that result, however, it would take a cocktail of drugs to unreservedly correct the many pathways damaged by stroke.  CNB-001 protects brain cells from damage by repairing four major pathways.  One mechanism additionally plays a chief role in the growth and survival of neurons.

The drug reduced stroke-caused “motor deficits” ““ problems of muscle and movement control ““ in this laboratory study.  It was effectual when administered up to an hour subsequent to stroke, which correlates with around three hours in humans, the same time frame for which tPA is currently approved.

Lapchak and colleagues at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies used an identical laboratory rabbit model to imitate human stroke that previous researchers had employed before the clot-busting drug tPA entered clinical trials. Patrick D. Lyden, M.D., chairman of Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Neurology, aided in leading a major trial that resulted in the Food and Drug Administration’s 1996 approval of tPA, still considered the stroke treatment gold standard.

The authors of the study conclude that human trials are the next step.  So if you have experienced strokes in the past . . . it might be time to spice up your life with a little bit of foreign food.

SOURCE: American Heart Association International Stroke Conference,  February 2011.