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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research at Southampton into Alzheimer’s Disease hits the headlines

Published: 1 February 2009

Curry proves hot property

Dr Amrit Mudher and colleagues at the School of Biological Sciences are investigating whether an Indian spice could hold the key to treating Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, will investigate whether curcumin (found in the popular spice turmeric) and a number of other drugs could benefit people with Alzheimer’s by counteracting some of the brain changes that are characteristic of the disease. These investigations will involve fruit fly models of the disease although clinical studies may follow.

Dr Mudher said: “Indian communities that regularly eat curcumin have a surprisingly low incidence of Alzheimer’s, but we do not know why. Part of our research will investigate how curcumin may help protect the brain and prevent the disease.”

In healthy people, proteins in the brain’s nerve cells help them to communicate with each other. In Alzheimer Disease these tau proteins become abnormal and thus cannot enable the nerve cells to communicate with each other. Over time this will result in the death of these cells.

The curcumin research is just one element of Dr Mudher’s latest three year research project. She is also examining how and why transport mechanisms within nerve cells break down causing damage to the ‘tracks’ along which vital materials are moved. This means the cells stop working as they should. There are two aspects to this research; an examination of how existing drugs used to treat cancer can ‘sellotape’ parts of the transport tracks back together and how cells’ existing protective protein systems can be switched on and strengthened to enable them to better deal with abnormal proteins like tau.

“The Alzheimer’s Society has funded our work for eight years and we are very grateful for their continued support,” said Dr Mudher, “Dementia is a condition that is drastically underfunded and there are so many avenues of Alzheimer’s research being left unexplored. There is also no commercial gain in exploring existing drugs developed for other conditions, which is why it is so important that Alzheimer’s Society, as a charity, is able to fund this project.

Speaking to Alzheimer's carers

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It's been clear for a long time that tumeric has medicinal effects. But is has only come to light more recently that people who eat curry regularly have a lower prevelance of Alzheimer's disease than those that don't eat curry.

Dr Amrit Mudher - Research leader
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