Puffing curcumin may blast Alzheimers

The new delivery method may be more effective than others in getting the compound past the blood-brain barrier and into the brain, where it can fight the plaque that leads to Alzheimer's.

Deep breaths of curcumin may be key to fighting Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study from Vanderbilt University.

Curcumin, a compound in the spice turmeric, has a demonstrated ability to smash the plaques in the brain that lead to the neuron loss that causes Alzheimer’s, according to the study’s senior author, Assistant Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Wellington Pham, Ph.D, who commented on the research in a release from the university.

The challenge, however, has been getting the curcumin into the brain.

“One of the difficulties in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is how to deliver drugs across the blood brain barrier,” he said.

“Our body has designed this barrier to protect the brain from any toxic molecules that can cross into the brain and harm neurons. But it is also a natural barrier for molecules designed for disease-modifying therapy,” Pham said.

Pham and colleagues at Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan, developed a new delivery strategy. They created a chemical molecule similar to curcumin, that could be tracked with an MRI, to be administered as an aerosol through a nebulizer. This method delivers the dose more directly to the brain than taking the compound orally and digesting it.

After tests in mice, the team found that “delivery to the cortex and hippocampal areas is more efficient using aerosolized curcumin than intervenous injection in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Pham.

The research was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, and noted on sciencedaily.com. Researchers have also been exploring other novel ways are bodies can better utilize the health-promoting powers of curcumin, including encapsulating the compound in water-soluble aggregates to boost bioavailability. Read a summary of a review of these new methods in the American Botanical Council’s Herbclip.


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