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New Curcumin Compound May Protect, Rebuild Brain Cells After Stroke – Cedars-Sinai; Salk Institute

  [ 19 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • February 11, 2011

Animal trials have demonstrated the compound's ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and play a role in cell & neuron support & repair.

Whether or not you’re fond of Indian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern food, stroke researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center think you may become a fan of one of their key spices.

The scientists created a new molecule from curcumin, a chemical component of the golden-colored spice turmeric, and found in laboratory experiments that it affects mechanisms that protect and help regenerate brain cells after stroke. Research scientist Paul A. Lapchak, PhD, director of Translational Research in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, presented these findings(1) Feb 9 at the American Heart Association International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

Only one drug is now approved for ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot blocks blood flow to the brain. Commonly called a “clot-busting drug,” tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is injected intravenously to dissolve clots and reinstate blood flow. If blood and oxygen are restored in time, consequences of the stroke, such as speech, memory, movement and other impairments, may be reduced.

The new curcumin-hybrid compound - CNB-001 - does not attack clots but instead repairs stroke damage at the molecular level that feed and support the all-important brain cells, neurons.

Curcumin has been studied for its potential to treat brain injury and disease, and while the substance itself looks promising, it has several drawbacks, especially as an emergency stroke treatment, which must be quick to be effective: It is not well absorbed in the body, fails to reach its target in high concentrations, becomes depleted quickly, and is blocked from entering the brain by a natural protective mechanism called the blood-brain barrier.

“CNB-001 has many of the same benefits of curcumin but appears to be a better choice of compound for acute stroke,” says Lapchak, “because it:

• Crosses the blood-brain barrier,

• Is quickly distributed in the brain,

• And moderates several critical mechanisms involved in neuronal survival.”

Lapchak adds that he and his colleagues expect the new drug to move to human clinical trials soon.

When brain tissue is deprived of blood and oxygen, a cascading series of interrelated events triggers at the molecular level, breaking down the normal electrical and chemical “signaling pathways” responsible for nourishing and supporting neurons. The environment quickly becomes toxic, killing brain cells and destroying their support structures.

Theoretically, interrupting these harmful events and restoring normal pathway function could prevent cell death and the memory and behavioral deficits that result, but it will take a cocktail of drugs or a drug capable of targeting many mechanisms to correct the many pathways damaged by stroke, Lapchak says.

CNB-001 protects brain cells from damage by repairing four major pathways. One mechanism also plays a major role in the growth and survival of neurons.

The drug reduced stroke-caused “motor deficits” - problems of muscle and movement control - in this laboratory study. It was effective when administered up to an hour after stroke, which correlates with about three hours in humans, the same time frame for which tPA is currently approved.

Lapchak and colleagues at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies used the same laboratory rabbit model to mimic human stroke that earlier researchers had employed before the clot-busting drug tPA entered clinical trials.

Patrick D. Lyden, MD, chairman of Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Neurology, helped lead a major trial that resulted in the Food and Drug Administration’s 1996 approval of tPA, still considered the stroke treatment gold standard.

Those who cook Indian, Thai, Malay and Persian dishes know turmeric well for its zesty flavor used in curries, and for the rich color it imparts to food. Turmeric also has a long history of use in Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine.

Grants from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, supported the CNB-001 study (NS060685 to PAL).

[Ed Note: for more information on why curcumin has been a staple of Ayervedic medicine for more than 4,000 years, and on emerging research to discover the reasons for its benefits, see "Curcumin - a Golden Gift of Nature with Benefits Still Untold."]


1. Abstracts of newly-published articles on this research include:

Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs, Jan 2011: “Neuroprotective and neurotrophic curcuminoids to treat stroke: A translational Perspective,” a review of data published 2002-2010 by Paul A Lapchak, PhD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Department of Neurology, Los Angeles, California, USA. [Email:]

Journal of Neurochemistry, Jan 2011: “Delayed treatment with a novel neurotrophic compound reduces behavioral deficits in rabbit ischemic stroke,” Paul A Lapchak, David R Schubert, Pamela A Maher. Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, The Salk Institute, Cellular Neurobiology Laboratories, La Jolla, California, USA. [Email:]

2.  Abstracts of the four Stroke Conference poster presentations on this research can be found in a PDF file, pages 39-42 (

Source: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center news release Feb 9, 2011; and 2011 International Stroke conference and Nursing Symposium Poster Presentation Abstracts.

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