July 17, 2007 Researchers have isolated bisdemethoxycurcumin, the active ingredient of curcuminoids -- a natural substance found in turmeric root -- that may help boost the immune system in clearing amyloid beta, a peptide that forms the plaques found in Alzheimer's disease. Using blood samples from Alzheimer's disease patients, researchers found that bisdemethoxycurcumin boosted immune cells called macrophages to clear amyloid beta.
In addition, researchers identified the immune genes associated with this activity.
The study provides more insight into the role of the immune system in Alzheimer's disease and points to a new treatment approach. Researchers say that it may be possible to test a patient's immune response with a blood sample in order to individualize treatment. The genes involved in the process, called MGAT III and Toll-like receptors, are also responsible for a number of other key functions in the immune system.
The results also suggest a new drug development approach for the disease that differs from the amyloid-beta vaccine. The new approach relies on the innate immune system, which is present at birth rather than on antibodies produced by B cells, which is a later developed part of the active immune system.
Authors of the study include Dr. Milan Fiala, a researcher with the David Geffen School of Medicine and the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System and Dr. John Cashman, director of the Human BioMolecular Research Institute (HBRI) in San Diego.
Cashman received study funding from the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation and Fiala from the Alzheimer's Disease Association.
The research appears in the July 16 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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