Curcumin, a compound present in popular Indian spice turmeric, is showing promise in preventing the clumping of proteins that cause Parkinson’s disease.
A team led by Basir Ahmad, Michigan State University post-doctoral researcher, showed previously that slow-wriggling alpha-synuclein proteins is involved in this process, a prelude to Parkinson’s.
The latest study, also led by Ahmad, shows that curcumin can help prevent clumping, the Journal of Biological Chemistry reports.
“Our research shows that curcumin can rescue proteins from aggregation, the first steps of many debilitating diseases,” said study co-author Lisa Lapidus, associate professor of physics and astronomy.
“More specifically, curcumin binds strongly to alpha-synuclein and prevents aggregation at body temperatures,” added Lapidus, according to a Michigan statement.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Symptoms are tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity and postural instability, among others.
Proteins are chains of amino acids that do most of the work in cells. Scientists understand protein structure, but they don’t know how they are built – a process known as folding.
Lapidus’ team is shedding light on the process by correlating the speed at which protein folds with its tendency to clump or bind with other proteins.
When curcumin attaches to alpha-synuclein it not only stops clumping, but it also raises the protein’s folding or reconfiguration rate. By bumping up the speed, curcumin moves the protein out of a dangerous speed zone allowing it to avoid clumping with other proteins.