A form of vitamin D3 together with curcumin, a chemical found in the spice turmeric, may stimulate the body's immune system to clear amyloid beta from the brain. are waxy deposits that result from the degeneration of tissue and form plaques that are a distinguishing characteristic of .
"We hope that vitamin D3 and curcumin, both naturally occurring ingredients, may offer new preventive and treatments possibilities for Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Milan Fiala, researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Scientists from UCLA and UC Riverside and the Human BioMolecular Research Institute took blood samples from nine Alzheimer's patients, and also from a patient with and three healthy subjects. They isolated the monocyte cells, which change into macrophages that neutralize waste products in the brain and body, including amyloid beta. The researchers took the monocyte cells and incubated them with amyloid beta, vitamin D3, and either natural or synthetic curcumin.
The researchers found that curcumin molecules enhanced the ability of amyloid beta to bind to macrophages, and vitamin D stimulated the uptake and absorption of amyloid beta in macrophages in a majority of patients. They also found that the potency of natural curcumin was low and was less effective than synthetic curcumin.
"We think that some of the novel synthetic compounds will get around the shortcomings of curcumin and improve the therapeutic efficacy," said John Cashman, of the Human BioMeolcular Research Institute, who developed the synthetic curcuminoid compounds used in the study.
Earlier research had found that some Alzheimer's patients respond positively to curcuminoids, while some do not. "Since vitamin D and curcumin work differently with the immune system, we may find that a combination of the two or each used alone may be more effective—depending on the individual patient," he said.