A report in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy found a compound in the curry spice turmeric may hold the key to repairing the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
A team in Germany say aromatic turmerone promoted the proliferation of brain stem cells and their development into neurons during laboratory tests on rats.
Rats were injected with the compound and scientists from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich scanned their brain.
The team examined the effect of aromatic turmerone on endogenous neutral stem cells (NSCs) found within adult brains.
NSCs go on to develop into neurons, and play an important role in recovery from neurodegenerative diseases.
They found that the turmeric compound boosted the proliferation of rat foetal NSCs by up to 80 per cent, and increased the speed at which they matured.
In living rats, injections of aromatic turmerone led to the expansion of two key brain regions where the growth of neurons is known to take place.
Dr Laura Phipps, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This early-stage study highlights the effects of aromatic turmerone in rat brains, but the findings are a long way from determining whether this compound could help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s.
“It’s 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.
“We’d need to see further studies to fully understand this compound’s effects in the context of a complex disease like Alzheimer’s, and until then people shouldn’t take this as a sign to stock up on supplies of turmeric for the spice rack.”