Studies have already indicated that curcumin, one of the compounds in the curry spice turmeric, could reduce inflammation in the body and have cancer-fighting properties.
Now, a new German study suggests that aromatic-turmerone, the lesser-studied compound in turmeric, could encourage the growth of nerve cells thought to be part of the brain’s repair kit.
Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany, say this work, based in rats, may pave the way for future drugs for strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. They nevertheless caution that more trials are needed to see whether the results apply to humans.
In the study, published in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy, rats were injected with the compound and their brains were subsequently scanned.
Parts of the brain known to be involved in nerve cell growth were seen to be more active after the aromatic-turmerone injection, and scientists say the compound may encourage a proliferation of brain cells.
In another part of the trial, researchers bathed rodent neural stem cells (NSCs) in different concentrations of aromatic-tumerone extract.
NSCs have the ability to transform into any type of brain cell and scientists suggest they could have a role in repair after damage or disease.
The research found not only that the higher the concentration of aromatic-turmerone, the greater the growth of the NSCs, but also that the cells bathed in the turmeric compound seemed to specialise into certain types of brain cells more rapidly too.
Researcher Dr Maria Adele Rueger pointed out: “In humans and higher developed animals their abilities do not seem to be sufficient to repair the brain but in fish and smaller animals they seem to work well.
“It is interesting that it might be possible to boost the effectiveness of the stem cells with aromatic-turmerone. And it is possible this in turn can help boost repair in the brain,” she added.
Dr Rueger is now considering whether human trials may be feasible.