Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Eating spicy Indian food could help boost the brain’s ability to heal itself, according to new research published in Friday’s edition of the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy.
According to Damian Gayle of The Daily Mail, aromatic turmerone, a compound found in the popular curry spice turmeric, could encourage the growth of nerve cells believed to help repair the brains of those suffering from neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
In lab tests involving rats, researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-3) in Germany, the University Hospital of Cologne Department of Neurology and the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research found that aromatic turmerone promoted the proliferation of brain stem cells and their development into neurons.
The study authors believe it could help scientists develop new ways to treat conditions that kill brain cells, which include strokes and Alzheimer’s. However, they told BBC News health reporter Smitha Mundasad that additional trials are required to see if the affect is applicable to humans.
The researchers injected the rodents with the compound, and then scanned their brains, Mundasad explained. They found that activity increased in the regions of the brain known to be involved in nerve cell growth following infusion with the bioactive compound. Specifically, they found that the subventricular zone (SVZ) was wider and the hippocampus had expanded in the brains of rats injected with aromatic turmerone.
In a different part of the trial, the researchers bathed rodent neural stem cells (NSCs) in different concentrations of aromatic tumerone extract. NSCs are stem cells found within adult brains that differentiate into neurons, and play a vital role in the self-repair and recovery of brain function in neurodegenerative diseases, the authors explained.
Rat fetal NSCs were cultured and grown in six different concentrations of aromatic tumerone during a 72-hour period, and at some concentrations, the compound was shown to increase stem cell proliferation by as much as 80 percent without having any impact on cell death. Furthermore, the cell differentiation process also became accelerated in cells treated with the aromatic tumerone compound when compared to untreated controls.
In a statement, lead author and INM-3 researcher Dr. Maria 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.”
Dr. Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK told the BBC that 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.” Until additional research reveals the compound’s impact on neurodegenerative diseases, she that that people should not take the new study as “a sign to stock up on supplies of turmeric for the spice rack.”