The synthetic derivative of the spice turmeric, which is shown here, was made by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.

Compound Shows Promise Against Brain Injuries

Two studies evaluated a synthetic derivative of the spice turmeric made by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Two new studies indicate a synthetic derivative of the spice turmeric may be useful in treating traumatic brain injuries. The derivative, made by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., improved the behavioral and molecular deficits seen in animal models of ischemic stroke and traumatic brain injury, according to studies published this month in the Journal of Neurochemistry and in early 2011 in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, the institute announced Tuesday.

Ischemic stroke is the leading cause of disability and the third-leading cause of death of U.S. older adults. TBI is the leading cause of death and disability in civilians and military personnel under age 45.

The Salk Institute researchers working on this are David R. Schubert, Ph.D., and Pamela Maher, Ph.D., in the Salk Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory. According to the institute, they start with natural, plant-based products and then select synthetic derivatives that provide some protection against nerve cell damage that occurs in brain injuries and age-associated neurodegenerative diseases. These studies involved the compound CNB-001, which was derived from curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It also enhanced memory in normal animals, according to the institute.

The Salk group does not run animal models of TBI and stroke. "To test the prediction that drugs from our new drug discovery scheme will work in multiple models of CNS disease and trauma, we undertook a series of experiments to assay the drugs in collaboration with researchers at Cedars-Sinai and UCLA, who are leaders in the fields of stroke and TBI, respectively, and appreciate the potential for therapeutics based on natural products and their derivatives," Schubert said.

Paul Lapchak, Ph.D., of the Department of Neurology at the Burns and Allen Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, collaborated with Schubert's team in the Journal of Neurochemistry study. The other study was done by Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Ph.D., and colleagues in the Department of Physiological Science and Division of Neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The studies were supported by the National Institutes of Health, and Gomez-Pinilla's study received additional funding from the Craig Neilsen Foundation.

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