Could Turmeric Compound Boost Brain Stem Cell Regeneration?

turmericFindings just released by the journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy reveal that a bioactive compound found in turmeric promotes stem cell proliferation and differentiation in the brain. The study suggests that aromatic turmerone could be a future drug candidate for treating neurological disorders like stroke and Alzheimers disease.

While several substances have been described to promote stem cell proliferation in the brain, fewer drugs additionally promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which constitutes a major goal in regenerative medicine, says lead study author Adele Rueger. Our findings on aromatic turmerone take us one step closer to achieving this goal.

The Study

While previous studies of aromatic turmerone showed that the compound NSC (neutral stem cells) can block activation of microglia cells, this study looked at the effects of aromatic turmerone on endogenous neutral stem cells stem cells found within adult brains. Aromatic turmerone is the lesser-studied of two major bioactive compounds found in turmeric. The other compound is curcumin, which is well known for its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.

NSC differentiate into neurons and play an important role in self-repair and recovery of brain function in neurodegenerative diseases. When activated, these cells cause neuroinflammation associated with different neurological disorders, however, aromatic turmerones impact on the brains capacity to self-repair was unknown.

The researchers studied the effects of aromatic turmerone on NSC proliferation and differentiation in vitro and in vivo. Rat fetal NSC were cultured and grown in six different concentrations of aromatic turmerone over a 72-hour period. Aromatic turmerone at certain concentrations was shown to increase NSC proliferation by up to 80 percent without having any impact on cell death. The cell differentiation process also accelerated in aromatic turmerone-treated cells compared to untreated control cells.

The Testing

To test the effects of aromatic turmerone on NSC in vivo, the researchers injected adult rats with aromatic turmerone. Using PET imaging and a tracer to detect proliferating cells, they found that the subventricular zone (SVZ) was wider, and the hippocampus expanded, in the brains of rats injected with aromatic turmerone than in control animals. The SVZ and hippocampus are the two sites in adult mammalian brains where neurogenesis - the growth of neurons - is known to occur.

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