Curcumin Can Combat Parkinson's Disease According To New Study
Curcumin, a compound of an asian spice known as turmeric, can be the next cure for Parkinson disease. It was discovered by researchers at Michigan State University that this particular substance can prevent the agglutination of a protein involved in the pathology of this disease. Parkinson disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system characterized by insufficient formation and activity of dopamine, and also by the presence of Lewy bodies.
The Lewy bodies are inclusions found in the neuron that are formed by the accumulation and clumping of a protein called alpha-synuclein, as was demonstrated earlier this year by researchers led by Basir Ahmad, an MSU postdoctoral researcher.
This new study led by Ahmal shows that curcumin binds to alpha-synuclein and thus prevents it from aggregating in neurons. Lisa Lapidus, MSU associate professor of physics said: Our research shows that curcumin can rescue proteins from aggregation, the first steps of many debilitating diseases. More specifically, curcumin binds strongly to alpha-synuclein and prevents aggregation at body temperatures.
Proteins are made by amino-acids, that bind into a chain. This chain can take a particular three-dimensional form by a process known as folding. Although it was previously believed that alpha-synuclein was natively unfolded, it is now a known fact that this protein forms a stably folded tetramer that resist aggregation. Mutations in the genes that codes alpha-synuclein make it fold at a slower speed, thus increasing the tendency to aggregate into insoluble fibrils.
This pathological process of forming neuronal inclusions can be stopped by curcumin. This compound binds to alpha-synuclein, not only inhibiting it from aggregating, but also raising the protein's folding speed which blocks its tendency to clump with other proteins.
This result is a very important step in developing a new treatment for Parkinson disease and other pathological conditions characterized by Lewy bodies, but there are also other factors that should be taken into account until the patients can benefit from these findings. First of all, curcumin cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier and thus cannot bind to alpha-synuclein. Curcumin's usefulness as an actual drug may be pretty limited since it doesn’t go into the brain easily where this misfolding is taking place, said Lapidus.
The results of the study are published in the current issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.