“Spice of life”: Indian spice turmeric polyphenol by-products may help inhibit Parkinson's symptoms.

The mis-folding of proteins within our bodies has been linked to a number of wide ranging effects, from common allergies to neurodegenerative diseases. In particular, the protein α-synuclein has been linked to Parkinson's disease. Curcumin (the chemical that gives the Indian spice tumeric its bright yellow colour) has been shown to be a potentially useful treatment, as it is anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and has an ability to prevent the build-up of these mis-folded proteins. Unfortunately, it is broken down rapidly within the body, making it unsuitable for use as a treatment.

Now, scientists from the Sassari University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, the Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry of CNR (Padua and Sassari Units), Italy, and the University of Padua, Italy, have tested several by-products of curcumin to evaluate their suitability for use in future drug therapy designs, using beamline B23 at Diamond Light Source.

The researchers were able to investigate six by-products of curcumin using a technique called circular dichroism (CD), a type of spectroscopy particularly well suited to investigating the folding properties including disordered structures of many proteins. From their studies, the researchers have shown that three of these by-products were able to inhibit significantly the build up of α-synuclein indicating their usefulness as 'scaffolds' in the design of future therapeutic drugs against Parkinson's disease.

Synchrotron radiation circular dichroism (SRCD) spectroscopy replaces the traditional xenon arc lamp source with the more intense and bright light beam produced by the synchrotron. B23 in particular has the unique feature of micro-collimated beam unavailable in any other SRCD beamline in the world that allows the measurements of very limited available materials.

“B23’s ability to analyse these tiny samples was vital to this research, as α-synuclein was available only in small quantities. We have now been able to analyse six curcumin by-products ability to limit AS aggregation, which otherwise would not have been possible” Paolo Ruzza, Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry of CNR, Padua Unit.