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Nano turmeric to better treat dementia

HEALTH

For years, curry lovers have sworn by the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, but its active compound, curcumin, has long frustrated scientists hoping to prove these claims with clinical studies.


The body’s failure to easily absorb curcumin has been a thorn in the side of medical researchers seeking scientific proof that curcumin can successfully treat cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic health conditions.


Now, an international team of researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA), McMaster University in Canada and Texas A&M University has shown that curcumin can be delivered effectively into human cells via tiny nanoparticles.


Sanjay Garg, a professor of pharmaceutical science at UniSA, and his colleague Dr Ankit Parikh have developed a nano formulation that alters curcumin’s behaviour to increase its oral bioavailability by 117%.


The researchers say nanoparticles containing curcumin not only prevent cognitive deterioration but also reverse the damage, paving the way for clinical trials for Alzheimer’s. Co-author Professor Xin-Fu Zhou, a UniSA neuroscientist, said, “Curcumin is a compound that suppresses oxidative stress and inflammation, both key pathological factors for Alzheimer’s, and it also helps remove amyloid plaques, small fragments of protein that clump together in the brains of Alzheimer patients.”


Treating herpes too?

The same delivery method is now being tested to prove that curcumin can also prevent the spread of genital herpes. “To treat genital herpes (HSV-2) you need a form of curcumin that is better absorbed, which is why it needs to be encapsulated in a nano formulation,” Professor Garg says. “Curcumin can stop the genital herpes virus, help in reducing the inflammation and make [the female genital tract] less susceptible to HIV and other STIs.”

Women are biologically more vulnerable to genital herpes as bacterial and viral infections in the female genital tract (FGT) impair the mucosal barrier. Curcumin, however, can minimise genital inflammation and control against HSV-2 infection, which would help prevent HIV infection in the FGT.

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