Researchers have isolated bisdemethoxycurcumin, an ingredient in curcumin that may help the immune system clear the amyloid beta that forms the plaques found in Alzheimer's disease. Curcumin is a natural substance found in tumeric root, frequently used in Indian curries. Using blood samples of Alzheimer's patients, researchers found that bisdemethoxycurcumin boosted immune cells called macrophages to clear amyloid beta. In addition, researchers identified the immune genes — MGAT III and Toll-like receptors — associated with this activity.
The study provides 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 results also suggest a new drug-development approach for the disease that differs from the amyloid-beta vaccine; this new approach relies on the innate immune system, which is present at birth, rather than on antibodies produced by B cells — part of the active immune system that develops later.
Dr. Milan Fiala, a researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Health Care System, and Dr. John Cashman, director of the Human BioMolecular Research Institute (HBRI) in San Diego are available for interviews.
The research appears in the July 16 early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Cashman received study funding from the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation and Fiala from the Alzheimer's Disease Association.