Monday, September 29, 2014

Turmeric Compound Boosts Regeneration of Brain Stem Cells

Turmeric, and its active ingredient, curcumin, is one of nature's wonderful gifts. Not only is it the foundation for most curries (yum!), but it is also turning out to have impressive and far reaching health benefits, including:
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory pain killer
  • Triggers apoptosis in cancer cells
  • Inhibits the amyloid plaques that cause Alzheimer's Disease
  • Enables the brain to generate new stem cells for neurons
This new research focuses on the last item in that list. If you choose to use a curcumin supplement, choose one that is standardized for 95% curcuminoids and also contains black pepper extract (piperine), which increases absorption of the curcumin considerably (as much as 2000% in one study) by inhibiting CYP3A4, an enzyme responsible for metabolism of drugs.

Let's start with a summary of the research from Science Daily:

Turmeric compound boosts regeneration of brain stem cells

Date: September 25, 2014
Source: BioMed Central
A bioactive compound found in turmeric promotes stem cell proliferation and differentiation in the brain, reveals new research. The findings suggest aromatic turmerone could be a future drug candidate for treating neurological disorders, such as stroke and Alzheimer's disease.
A bioactive compound found in turmeric promotes stem cell proliferation and differentiation in the brain, reveals new research published today in the open access journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy. The findings suggest aromatic turmerone could be a future drug candidate for treating neurological disorders, such as stroke and Alzheimer's disease.

The study looked at the effects of aromatic (ar-) turmerone on endogenous neutral stem cells (NSC), which are stem cells found within adult brains. NSC differentiate into neurons, and play an important role in self-repair and recovery of brain function in neurodegenerative diseases. Previous studies of ar-turmerone have shown that the compound can block activation of microglia cells. When activated, these cells cause neuroinflammation, which is associated with different neurological disorders. However, ar-turmerone's impact on the brain's capacity to self-repair was unknown.

Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Jülich, Germany, studied the effects of ar-turmerone on NSC proliferation and differentiation both in vitro and in vivo. Rat fetal NSC were cultured and grown in six different concentrations of ar-turmerone over a 72 hour period. At certain concentrations, ar-turmerone was shown to increase NSC proliferation by up to 80%, without having any impact on cell death. The cell differentiation process also accelerated in ar-turmerone-treated cells compared to untreated control cells.

To test the effects of ar-turmerone on NSC in vivo, the researchers injected adult rats with ar-turmerone. Using PET imaging and a tracer to detect proliferating cells, they found that the subventricular zone (SVZ) was wider, and the hippocampus expanded, in the brains of rats injected with ar-turmerone than in control animals. The SVZ and hippocampus are the two sites in adult mammalian brains where neurogenesis, the growth of neurons, is known to occur.

Lead author of the study, Adele Rueger, said: "While several substances have been described to promote stem cell proliferation in the brain, fewer drugs additionally promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which constitutes a major goal in regenerative medicine. Our findings on aromatic turmerone take us one step closer to achieving this goal."

Ar-turmerone is the lesser-studied of two major bioactive compounds found in turmeric. The other compound is curcumin, which is well known for its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by BioMed Central. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
Joerg Hucklenbroich, Rebecca Klein, Bernd Neumaier, Rudolf Graf, Gereon Fink, Michael Schroeter, Maria Rueger. (2014, Sep 26). Aromatic-turmerone induces neural stem cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo. Stem Cell Research & Therapy; 5(4): 100 DOI: 10.1186/scrt500
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Here is the beginning of the article, including the abstract and the introduction. The article is open access.

Aromatic-turmerone induces neural stem cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo

Joerg Hucklenbroich [1,2], Rebecca Klein [2,3], Bernd Neumaier [3], Rudolf Graf [3], Gereon Rudolf Fink [1,2], Michael Schroeter [1,2,3] and Maria Adele Rueger [1,2,3]
1, Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-3), Research Centre Juelich, Leo-Brandt-Straße 52425, Jülich, Germany
2. Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
3. Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research, Cologne, Germany
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2014, 5(4):100 doi:10.1186/scrt500 



Aromatic (ar-) turmerone is a major bioactive compound of the herb Curcuma longa. It has been suggested that ar-turmerone inhibits microglia activation, a property that may be useful in treating neurodegenerative disease. Furthermore, the effects of ar-turmerone on neural stem cells (NSCs) remain to be investigated.


We exposed primary fetal rat NSCs to various concentrations of ar-turmerone. Thereafter, cell proliferation and differentiation potential were assessed. In vivo, naïve rats were treated with a single intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) injection of ar-turmerone. Proliferative activity of endogenous NSCs was assessed in vivo, by using noninvasive positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and the tracer [18F]-fluoro-L-thymidine ([18F]FLT), as well as ex vivo.


In vitro, ar-turmerone increased dose-dependently the number of cultured NSCs, because of an increase in NSC proliferation (P < 0.01). Proliferation data were supported by qPCR-data for Ki-67 mRNA. In vitro as well as in vivo, ar-turmerone promoted neuronal differentiation of NSCs. In vivo, after i.c.v. injection of ar-turmerone, proliferating NSCs were mobilized from the subventricular zone (SVZ) and the hippocampus of adult rats, as demonstrated by both [18F]FLT-PET and histology (P < 0.05).


Both in vitro and in vivo data suggest that ar-turmerone induces NSC proliferation. Ar-turmerone thus constitutes a promising candidate to support regeneration in neurologic disease.


Curcumin and ar-turmerone are the major bioactive compounds of the herb Curcuma longa. Although many studies have demonstrated curcumin to possess antiinflammatory and neuroprotective properties (reviewed by [1]), to date, the effects of ar-turmerone remain to be elucidated. For example, antitumor properties, exerted via the induction of apoptosis [2] and inhibition of tumor cell invasion [3], have been attributed to ar-turmerone. Park et al. [4,5] recently suggested that ar-turmerone also possesses antiinflammatory properties resulting from the blockade of key signaling pathways in microglia. Because microglia activation is a hallmark of neuroinflammation and is associated with various neurologic disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases [6,7] and stroke [8,9], ar-turmerone constitutes a promising therapeutic agent for various neurologic disorders.

The regenerative potential of endogenous neural stem cells (NSCs) plays an important role in neurodegenerative disease and stroke. Endogenous NSCs are mobilized by cerebral ischemia [10] as well as by various neurodegenerative diseases [11,12], although their intrinsic regenerative response is insufficient to enable functional recovery. The targeted (that is, pharmacologic) activation of endogenous NSCs has been shown to enhance self-repair and recovery of function in the adult brain in both stroke [13,14] and neurodegeneration [15]. Importantly, NSCs and microglia relevantly interact with each other, thereby affecting their respective functions [16,17].

Thus, with the perspective of ar-turmerone as a therapeutic option in mind, we investigated the effects of ar-turmerone on NSCs in vitro and in vivo.

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Here is a collection of articles complied by on their page on curcumin. Some of these studies show that curcumin is not effective for certain conditions. For a short-cut to seeing where curcumin is effective, the Examiner page has a handy little chart - The Human Effect Matrix.

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