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Turmeric-based drug to cure Parkinson's disease

IIIT-A, NIMHANS experts design, develop compound effective in treating neurological disorders.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2010 08:01 IST
K Sandeep Kumar

IIIT-A, NIMHANS experts design, develop compound effective in treating neurological disorders

Parkinson's disease - the degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that often impairs the sufferer's vital motor skills, speech, and other functions--- has finally met its match in the humble yet super spice of India: Turmeric.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad's (IIIT-A) Indo-Russian Centre for Biotechnology in collaboration with their counterparts from the National Institute for Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) have discovered that this quintessential ingredient of many an Indian dishes, possess anti-oxidant property that is effective in treating Parkinson's disease.

The team of scientists, led by Prof Krishna Misra of IIIT-A, have succeeded in designing and developing a compound that has raised hopes of a herbal drug having therapeutic potential for neurological disorders.

"Turmeric gets the anti-oxidant property from curcumin, which gives the spice its yellow colour. Curcumin improves the body's immunity against various diseases and is recognised worldwide for its medicinal properties. It can be used as a drug for many kinds of diseases as it is an anti-oxidant that provides immunity to the body," informed Prof Misra. She said that however the hurdle in its use is that Curcumin cannot be absorbed by the human body cells owing to it being insoluble in water.

"We have now succeedeed improvising curcumin to get round its non-bio availability or low absorption rate in the body. During the experiments, we found positive results for treating Parkinson's disease," she added.

Prof Misra said that Parkinson's disease is caused by the loss of neurons- in the mid-brain- that produces the chemical, dopamine, which controls body movements. It is to be noted that oxidative stress, identified as the presence of free radicals in the body that react with cell molecules and damage the cells, is caused by the depletion of the cellular antioxidant, glutathione (GSH).

"GSH is said to be responsible for the neurodegeneration. This then causes tremors in limbs and uncontrolled body movements, all symptoms identified with the Parkinson's disease," the scientist explained.

She said that it had now been established curcumin could prevent the degeneration or the death of the cells. "Besides anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties, curcumin also has therapeutic potential for neurological disorders," she said while adding the breakthrough of the research team was the result of the study to increase the solubility of curcumin in the body using bio-conjugates initiated in 2007.

"We attached amino acids, which are easily absorbed by the body, to curcumin and injected it into cultured cells. The amino acids easily entered the cells along with curcumin. Once curcumin enters the cell, it is de-tagged from the amino acids and carries on its function of preventing the degeneration or death of the cells," she added.

The "improvised" curcumin designed by scientists can act as a supplementary medicine for treating Parkinson's disease. The drug available now generates dopamine to control the movement of the body, but it is not able to stop the cells from dying. Hence, it fails to attack the cause.

However, when used with curcumin, which prevents degeneration of the neuron cells, it can delay the disease. Curcumin could also increase the anti-oxidant load responsible for immunity in the body.