A new study out of Michigan State University published in March 2012 suggests that curcumin prevents accumulation of the protein alpha-synuclein in the brain. Alpha-synuclein is a protein expressed primarily in the brain that induces the formation of microtubule-associated protein tau. Tau proteins help to stabilize microtubules, which make up the framework of cells. When tau proteins are defective or don’t do their job effectively, it can increase the risk for dementia and/or Alzheimer’s.
Alpha-synuclein fibrillar accumulations represent a major component of Alzheimer’s disease amyloid plaque, and defects in alpha-synuclein are associated with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, a form of dementia that affects cognition, movement and emotions.
Curcumin, the principle component found in the spice turmeric (Curcuma longa), has potent antioxidant, free-radical scavenging and inflammation-modulating activity.
Researchers found that curcumin binds strongly to alpha-synuclein in a non-amyloid-beta component region of the brain and completely inhibits the formation of fibrils. The investigators also showed that the reconfiguration rate within the unfolded protein was significantly increased at high temperatures.
The scientists concluded that curcumin can rescue proteins from accumulation, the first steps in the development of many debilitating diseases.
Ahmad B, et al. J Biol Chem. 2012;12:9193-9.