March 29, 2012
By John Phillip
Curcumin, the bioactive compound found in the Indian curry spice turmeric and commonly referred to as ‘holy powder’, has been used for centuries in folk medicine to treat wounds, infections, and other health problems. Today researchers are using the power of the evolving science of epigenetics to reveal how curcumin is crucial in the fight against many forms of cancer, as it causes metastatic cells to undergo programmed cell death, or apoptosis.
Researchers from Michigan State University, publishing the result of a study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry have found that this amazing natural compound is able to prevent the destructive formation of alpha-synuclein proteins that are the hallmark presentation in many neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin is one a very select group of structures that is able to cross the delicate blood-brain barrier to affect biochemical and electrical activities in the brain. The turmeric derivative has demonstrated the unique capability to prevent clumping or aggregation leading to disease development.
July 26, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
A kind of protein naturally occurring in bananas may hamper the spread of HIV, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
The protein, known as BanLec, is in the family known as lectins. Lectins are able to identify and attach to foreign sugars, including those found in the outer coating of the virus that causes AIDS. The researchers found that HIV viruses in the presence of BanLec were blocked as effectively as viruses in the presence of two different modern HIV drugs.
Multiple applications of lectins’ newfound property suggest themselves. For example, the proteins could be incorporated into topically applied vaginal microbicides to reduce women’s risk of HIV infection.
“The explosion of AIDS in poorer countries continues to be a bad problem because of tremendous human suffering and the cost of treating it,” senior author David Markovitz, said. “That’s particularly true in developing countries where women have little control over sexual encounters, so development of a long-lasting, self-applied microbicide is very attractive.”
Researchers also hope to find a way to use lectins to prevent the HIV virus from integrating into host cells even if it does gain entry into the body.
“The problem with some HIV drugs is that the virus can mutate and become resistant, but that’s much harder to do in the presence of lectins,” co-author Michael D. Swanson said. “Lectins can bind to the sugars found on different spots of the HIV-1 envelope, and presumably it will take multiple mutations for the virus to get around them.”
Although AIDS is especially a problem in Third World countries, it also remains a serious health problem in the United States. An estimated 57,000 women in the United States are infected with HIV, along with three times as many men. AIDS is the single biggest killer of African American women between the ages of 35 and 34.