A debilitating disease that causes difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events, Alzheimer’s, is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than 5 million Americans.
Women are particularly at risk for the disease, making up two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases. Women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease during the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer, according to data provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Also at issue is the health of the primary caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The emotional stress of caring for someone with the disease has been rated as “high” or “very high,” with one-third of caregivers reporting symptoms of depression.
In just a decade, deaths related to Alzheimer’s have increased by 68 percent! “Alzheimer’s disease is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed,” the Alzheimer’s Association reported.
In the U.S., someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 67 seconds
However, recent scientific breakthroughs involving turmeric, a popular, ancient Indian spice, offers new hope for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin, one of turmeric’s most beneficial compounds, has been proven to fight pain and inflammation, as well as help stimulate stem cell growth, a remarkable breakthrough for Alzheimer’s and dementia research.
Researchers now believe that turmeric could be key in helping repair brain damage in humans.
“Curcumin has demonstrated ability to enter the brain, bind and destroy the beta-amyloid plaques present in Alzheimer’s with reduced toxicity,” said Wellington Pham, Ph.D., assistant professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University and senior author of the study, published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Accumulation and aggregation of protein fragments, known as beta-amyloid, drives the irreversible loss of neurons in Alzheimer’s disease,” reports News.Vanderbilt.edu.
“Developing small molecules to reduce this accumulation or promote its demolition is crucial, but the ability of these small molecules to cross the blood-brain barrier has been a restricting factor for drug delivery into the brain.”
Scientists develop new way to deliver turmeric compounds across blood brain barrier
In order to overcome this obstacle, Pham and his colleagues at Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan, came up with a new way to deliver curcumin-like molecules to the brain more effectively.
“One of the difficulties in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is how to deliver drugs across the blood brain barrier,” Pham explained.
“Our body has designed this barrier to protect the brain from any toxic molecules that can cross into the brain and harm neurons,” he said. “But it is also a natural barrier for molecules designed for disease-modifying therapy.”
Delivering drugs to the cortex and hippocampus is much more efficient using a curcumin aerosol compared to injecting it intravenously, scientists say
To circumvent the problems with giving the drug intravenously, Japanese scientists created an atomizer to generate a curcumin aerosol, using a molecule similar to curcumin called FMeC1.
“The advantage of the FMeC1 is that it is a perfluoro compound, which can be tracked by the biodistribution in the brain noninvasively using magnetic resonance imaging,” Pham said.
“Curcumin is a very simple chemical structure, so it is not expensive to generate the analog.
“In this way the drug can be breathed in and delivered to the brain,” said Pham, adding that nebulizers are already available on the market and are relatively inexpensive.
“In this paper we also showed that delivery to the cortex and hippocampal areas is more efficient using aerosolized curcumin than intravenous injection in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease,” concluded Pham and his team.
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