A study on a special formulation of curcumin called Longvida, which has just been published, has revealed new mechanisms of “pre-Alzheimer’s” disease pathology. It suggests possible ways to address a silent process that begins decades before memory loss (1). The study by UCLA researchers and published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, is one of the first to reveal the relationship between pre-tangle tau, brain cell death and cognitive function. The study also found that a special, low dosage form of curcumin – a compound derived from turmeric spice – fully restored memory in mice with cognitive dysfunction caused by tau.
While amyloid and tau are visible in the brain under a microscope as “plaques and tangles”, new research suggests it is their individual protein pieces, called soluble monomers and dimers, which may be the most toxic to the brain (2). These pieces begin to accumulate in the brain early in life: A 2011 study at the University of Ulm, Germany, found pre-tangle tau in the brain of 90% of young adults under the age of 30 (3).
Cancer target may have role in pre-Alzheimer’s
The new study also discovered a new role for heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), a “chaperone” protein that is a key target for cancer research. The researchers found that HSP90 acts to phosphorylate tau protein into its chemically sticky cousin which forms tau tangles. After feeding the special curcumin to mice with increased tau, they found that this process was reversed, resulting in dephosphorylated tau toxicity.
Longvida being effective in low doses was a key finding
Longvida was originally developed by UCLA neuroscientists Dr. Sally Frautschy and Dr. Greg Cole, co-authors on the study who noted, “These data provide rationale for this bioavailable curcumin formulation to be a candidate for the treatment of tauopathies, including AD.” In previously published research, the researchers found that this particular formulation improved the memory of mice with high levels of amyloid-beta, another protein that accumulates in middle age and is noted as a primary risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (4).
Although curcumin has yet to be proven in large-scale clinical trials on Alzheimer’s patients, a human trial recently published in Nutrition Journal, also using the Longvida formulation as found in AOR’s CurcuVIVA in an 80mg dose as was found to statistically reduce amyloid-beta plaque in plasma compared to healthy, middle-aged humans taking placebo (5).
According to researchers, this special form of curcumin used in the study was developed to help curcumin absorb intact into the body, overcoming a difficult problem observed in previous clinical trials with curcumin.
The full text of the study may be accessed at http://www.jbc.org/cgi/doi/10.1074/jbc.M112.393751
1. Ma et al. Curcumin suppresses soluble tau oligomers and corrects molecular chaperone, synaptic and behavioral deficits in aged human tau
transgenic mice. Journal of Biological Chemistry, first published on December 21, 2012, doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.393751
2. Alzheimer’s Association Brain Tour: More About Plaques Source: http://www.alz.org/braintour/plaques.asp
3. Braak and Del Tredici. The pathological process underlying Alzheimer’s disease in individuals under thirty. Acta Neuropathology. 2011
4. Begum et al. Curcumin structure-function, bioavailability, and efficacy in models of neuroinflammation and Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of
Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 2008 Jul;326(1):196-208.
5. Disilvestro et al. Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lipidated curcumin in healthy middle aged people. Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:79