Researchers in Germany have found that aromatic turmerone, a compound found in the plant turmeric, can boost the generation of stem cells in the brains of rats. The study is published on Friday 26 September in the journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy.
Researchers at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Jülich, Germany, studied the effect of aromatic turmerone on rats’ neural stem cells – cells that are found within the brain and can become nerve cells. These neural stem cells can play a role in helping the brain to repair damage, by generating the growth of new nerve cells.
The scientists first looked at the effects of aromatic turmerone on neural stem cells in a dish. They found that when these cells were treated with the compound, they multiplied faster and the production of new nerve cells was accelerated.
They then injected rats with the compound and used brain scanning techniques to study the effects on the rats’ neural stem cells. The results showed that in rats that were treated with aromatic turmerone, the growth of new cells was boosted in two regions of the brain. The researchers suggest that the compound should now be investigated to see whether it has potential as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, 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.
“The death of brain cells is a key feature of Alzheimer’s, and investment in research is crucial to understand how this cell death occurs and how to intervene. It takes many years for fundamental research such as this to be translated into new treatments, and for the best chance of success we need to see a range of approaches being taken.”