Could a Drug Modelled After Curcumin Slow Down the Progression of Alzheimer’s?

In a recent article, I discussed Pfizer’s surprising announcement. Although the pharma giant stated that they will be backing out of Alzheimer’s research, I stressed the fact that this is not the end.

Disheartening, yes — but Alzheimer’s research will continue.

Based on recent findings, there is a glimmer of hope. An experimental drug, known as J147 was shown to treat Alzheimer’s disease and reverse signs of aging in mice. Nearly ready for clinical human trials, researchers around the globe will continue the fight against this neurodegenerative disease.

Study Finds — Alzheimer’s Drug Makes Mice More Youthful

As published in Aging Cell, this recent study found that the drug J147 binds to protein within the mitochondria. This organelle generates energy in cells and helped scientists solve a key puzzle. By understanding what J147 does, the researchers can now begin clinical trials.

This is a prime example of how dedicated research leads to progress. This group of researchers first developed J147 in 2011. After screening plants with the ability to reverse cellular and molecular aging in the brain, they created a modified version of a molecule found in curcumin. This chemical is most often associated with turmeric, and its ability to reduce inflammation.

Based on their findings, J147 may not only reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s but other age-associated diseases as well. As stated by the lead researcher, “By targeting aging, we may be able to slow down many pathological conditions associated with old-age.”

A 2010 review explored the connection between curcumin and aging. As published in Current Pharmaceutical Design, the evolutionary theory of aging is based on the relationship between body maintenance and investments in reproduction. This process is a result of lifelong molecular damage due to oxidative stress produced in the mitochondria. DNA replication errors are also said to play a key role.

Since aging is plastic, we can manipulate this process; and researchers believe that reducing inflammation may be the first step. In their review, they highlight the possibility of curcumin as a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent.

More on the Power of Curcumin

Around the globe, there are more than 1000 published studies on the effects of curcumin in regards to various diseases. As discussed, J147 is modelled after curcumin — which is no stranger to Alzheimer’s research. It has been extensively based on its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

India has a very low prevalence of Alzheimer’s, which may be due to a specific intake of food. Used in Indian cuisine for at least 2500 years, turmeric has a long medicinal history in South Asia. One theory is that the high daily consumption of turmeric supports prevention.

In India, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s among adults aged 70-79 years is 4.4 times less than the same aged group in the United States. Genetics may play a role, but diet remains a key area of interest. In addition, animal studies have found that curcumin may have a direct effect on amyloid pathology in Alzheimer’s.

Curcumin’s Effects on Fruit Flies

In 2012, a curcumin-based study was published in PloS ONE. It was found that curcumin enhanced activity and prolonged the life of transgenic fruit flies. These flies had a disorder similar to Alzheimer’s and select groups were given curcumin.

In comparison to the sick flies who did not receive curcumin, the treatment group lived up to 75 percent longer. They also maintained mobility for longer. However, curcumin did not reduce amyloid plaque formation. This result confirmed the belief that Aβ oligomers are the most harmful to nerve cells.

Reducing the Impact of Aging on Your Brain

If age is the greatest factor for dementia, then it is important to intervene. Aging is inevitable, but it is possible to slow down the progression of this natural process. While focusing specifically on the brain, one 2017 study is of particular interest. Based on previous research, three main interventions were outlined.

These include:

  • Blood pressure maintenance — The key is maintaining a healthy weight, while following a balanced, active lifestyle. Stress management is also critical.
  • Cognitive training — This includes any activity that promotes critical thinking, including crossword puzzles or brain training games. Although the effectiveness of this intervention is controversial, it does help increase neuroplasticity — which may reduce the rate of cognitive decline.
  • Increased exercise — It is believed that regular exercise may help elderly individuals maintain cognitive abilities for longer. This also reduces one’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

You may not be able to beat the clock, but you can take proactive action against unhealthy aging.

Although more research is required, the power of curcumin is certainly something to consider. If you’d like to increase your intake of turmeric, begin with these delicious recipes:

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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