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Ed Yeates reportingA dietary staple in India appears to block and break up brain plaques that cause Alzheimer's Disease. The fascinating findings in mice might eventually lead to human clinical trials in Salt Lake City.
The trials will only come here to Salt Lake if a pilot study on patients in the Los Angeles area proves out. That human study at the VA Hospital there is just starting now.
Though you may think curried foods are too hot to handle - think again! Now it appears an ingredient in curry may be too hot to handle for the villain that causes Alzheimer's Disease.
Curcumin is a natural compound that gives curry spice its yellow color. Researchers already know it may be a powerful antioxidant against cancer.
But in a pilot study just now beginning, UCLA researchers want to see what it will do concentrated in a pill - given to Alzheimer's patients at the V.A. hospital in L.A.
Laurence Meyer, M.D.,Ph.D./Chief of Staff for Research, S.L. V.A. Medical Center: "You would have to eat a heck of a lot of curry powder to get you this much. In fact, it's an amount of curry powder that makes you yellow-- everything that comes in or out of your body-- yellow."
Folks at Salt Lake's Silverado Care Center have varying stages of Alzheimer's. Who they are is gradually fading away because extra cellular deposits of protein - called plaque - are sticking together, forming fat like globules in the brain.
If this ingredient in curry really works, it might do a rather remarkable thing in the brain. It would break up plaque, which causes all the damage, much like soap breaks up bacon grease.
Dr. Laurence Meyer, who heads up research at Salt Lake's V.A. Hospital, says UCLA's studies show curcumin appears to bind to the plaques in mice, making them go away.
V.A. hospitals across the country, including Salt Lake, are waiting to see what happens to this first human test group in Los Angeles. If the data looks good...
Meyer: "This could be something we would start hopefully in a couple of years."
India has about a fifth the prevalence of Alzheimer's as the U.S. The country there has been using curcumin as a traditional anti-inflammatory medicine for a thousand years.