Home' Intouch : In Touch Summer 2014 Contents 16 IN TOUCH SUMMER 2014
TURMERIC’S ROLE IN BRAIN
New research suggests that the
aromatic-turmerone compound (found
in the turmeric plant) can induce and
promote regeneration of brain cells in rats.
The study had two phases, in vitro
(assessing the effects on rats’ brain cells
in tests tubes) and in vivo (assessing
effects on live rats).
In phase one of the trial, the researchers
found that when the turmeric compound
was added directly to rat brain stem cell
cultures in test tubes, the numbers of
brain cells nearly doubled compared to
cultures of brain stem cells that didn’t
have any turmeric compound added. The
trial also established that the turmeric
compound didn’t cause cell death.
The next phase of the trial assessed the
effects of the turmeric compound on the
rat brain itself. In this phase, researchers
injected the compound directly into a live
rat’s brain. Examining the effects using
PET brain imaging and a tracer to detect
proliferating cells, researchers found that
the subventricular zone (a part of the brain
where cell production is prominent) was
wider, and the hippocampus (the brain’s
memory centre) had expanded in the
brains of rats injected with the compound,
compared to control rats that underwent
the same surgical procedure but without
THE ROLE OF TURMERIC IN BRAIN CELL REGENERATION,
NEW DIAGNOSTIC TEST FOR ALZHEIMER’S AND RESEARCH
INTO WHETHER FASTING DECREASES DEMENTIA RISK.
While this is an interesting result,
further studies are required to understand
the molecular processes behind how the
compound might enhance cell production,
and to explore drug administration methods
appropriate for human clinical trials.
DIAGNOSTIC EYE TEST FOR
Australian researcher Dr Shaun Frost and
a team of researchers are developing
eye-imaging technology that could
diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other
forms of dementia up to 20 years before
Their study included 40 participants
with an average age of 73 years.
Participants’ eyes were photographed
twice with a high-resolution camera that
identifies individual cells in the retina of
the eye. The retina is the eye’s ‘sensor’,
which sits at the back of the eyeball
behind the pupil and the lens.
These photographs were then
compared to an amyloid (a starch-like
protein) PET scan of the participants’
brains. Amyloid PET scanning can
definitively tell when Alzheimer’s
disease does and does not exist in the
brain, with or without symptoms.
The results showed that the
eye scan test could differentiate
between brains both with and without
Alzheimer’s disease – all participants
with Alzheimer’s disease were correctly
identified and four in five people without
Alzheimer’s disease were cleared.
These findings are promising, with
the eye test able to confirm everyone
who had Alzheimer’s disease.
However, they also suggest that some
participants who were considered
healthy controls (ie those with normal
amyloid PET scans) displayed amyloid
beta plaques in their retinal cells similar
to that in those with Alzheimer’s
disease. Further trials are required.
CAN REGULAR FASTING
DECREASE YOUR RISK OF
A recent news item claimed that regular
fasting may be able to reduce your risk of
dementia. The claim was based on people
who were taking part in the 5:2 diet.
The 5:2 diet is a relatively simple
formula where you eat ‘normally’ for five
days out of the week and fast (consuming
around 600 calories – the equivalent of
some ham, eggs and toast) for the other
Currently, the only scientific evidence
evaluating the effects of fasting on
brain health has been seen in mice. A
2007 study published in the journal,
Neurobiology of Disease, found that
mice with Alzheimer’s disease placed
on either an intermittent fasting or a
calorie-restricted diet were able to
perform relatively better on a memory
test, compared to mice with Alzheimer’s
disease who were allowed to feed freely.
Pathologically, they also found that the
mice on the calorie-restricted diet (not the
fasting diet) had less build-up on amyloid
beta and Tau proteins (biomarkers of
However, no published studies have
evaluated whether the 5:2 diet (or fasting)
reduce the risk of dementia in humans.
To stay up-to-date with the latest
dementia research, visit:
3/12/14 1:23 PM
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