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Turmeric for Parkinson's

The researchers: Mythri, Bharath, Jagatha

Curcumin, the wonder compound in turmeric, has found another possible therapeutic use — this time for treatment of Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers conducting experiments on mice have shown that curcumin increased the content of glutathione (GSH), an anti-oxidant in certain nerve cells of the brain that control body movement. The increased GSH protects the brain against abnormal accumulation of toxic free radicals that damage the mitochondria of these nerve cells triggering off Parkinson's Disease (PD)1.

"During Parkinson’s, there is a gradual death of specific nerve cells called dopaminergic neurons in the mid-brain. If we understand why these cells die, we can slow the process down or reverse it by developing better therapies," says M. M. Srinivas Bharath, the lead researcher.

During early PD, there is a significant depletion of GSH leading to abnormal accumulation of toxic free radicals. These free radicals damage mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, ultimately killing the nerve cells. "So, if we could prevent depletion of GSH in mid-brain nerve cells, we could protect nerve cells against degeneration," Bharath says.

The team found that selective GSH depletion in mid-brain nerve cells damaged mitochondria mimicking an early PD condition. To protect against this insult, they administered curcumin. The compound protected mouse brain and nerve cells in culture by increasing the GSH content and protecting against toxic free radicals thus exhibiting therapeutic potential in early PD.

To support this conclusion, the team used computer simulations and biochemical experiments. They simulated disease pathways of PD using mathematics and computer modeling to generate a virtual experimental system that gives a complete picture of disease cascades and potential therapeutic targets. Using this 'in silico' model, they corroborated that curcumin could be a potential therapeutic compound in PD.



  1. Jagatha, B. et al. Curcumin treatment alleviates the effects of glutathione depletion in vitro and in vivo: Therapeutic implications for Parkinson’s disease explained via in silico studies. Free Radic. Biol. Med. 44, 907-917 (2008)

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