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Indian Spice Curcumin Blocks MS Progression
(modified from the Spring 2003 New Horizons)

    Taming the inflammatory process is one of the avenues that might stave off the development of many types of diseases.   Recent studies with mice suggest that curcumin, a compound from the Indian curry spice tumeric, may help to block the progression of multiple sclerosis.
    There has been increased interest in the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin for some time now.  Epidemiological studies of the elderly Indian population have discovered low levels of Alzheimer’s disease.  Recent studies have reported that the progression of Alzheimer's disease in mice has been slowed down with curcumin.
    To study the potential of curcumin to slow progression of MS, researchers used mice that have been bred to develop (EAE) experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.  These mice naturally develop a progressive deterioration of their myelin, mimicking the development of MS in humans.
    Two researchers from Vanderbilt University, Dr. Chandramohan Natarajan and Dr. John Bright carried on the 30-day study.  The mice were injected three times a week with 50- and 100 microgram doses of curcumin.     
    The results of their preliminary study were very encouraging.  Half-way through the 30-day study the control group mice that had not received the curcumin injections, had developed complete paralysis of their hind limbs. 
    The mice given the lower dose injection of 50-micrograms developed some minor stiffness symptoms, while the mice given the higher 100-microgram injections showed no neurological impairments at all.  The researchers are theorizing that curcumin might thwart the production of IL-12.  This protein is involved in the signaling process that activates the immune system to target an attack on the myelin sheath.
     Interestingly, the dosages of curcumin the mice received were equivalent to what might be found in a typical Indian diet.   
     The easiest way to obtain significant amounts of curcumin is in capsules designed for supplementation.    

Research reported from the Annual Experimental Biology 2002 Conference in New Orleans, LA, April 23, 2002        


Antioxidant Ferulic Acid Protects Brain Cells in MS Study
(modified from the Winter 2004 New Horizons)

    A new discovery has been reported about how oligodendrocytes, the brain cells whose function is to maintain the myelin sheaths that insulate nerve fibers, are destroyed by an ancient protein called  syncytin. 
    A research group out of the University of Calgary in Alberta, led by senior researcher, Dr. Christopher Power, reported their new findings in the October 2004 Nature Neuroscience.
The researchers postulate that the gene that is involved in the production of syncytin was incorporated into the human genome millions of years ago from invading retroviruses.   
    Although this gene is usually inactive, Dr. Power’s research team found that the in the brain tissues of MS patients, the levels of the syncytin protein was three times the level found in control brain tissue.  Why this gene turns on the virus to produce lots of syncytin in MS patients is still not understood.
    In lab dish experiements with cultured brain cells, the researchers treated the cells to increase the release of the syncytin protein.  They discovered that the increased amounts of syncytin  caused an increase in the release of inflammatory proteins and other damaging free radical compounds.  It was this combination of syncytin protein, inflammatory proteins and free radical compounds that caused the death of oligodendrocytes. 
    Mice whose brains were injected with the syncytin-promoting virus developed muscle coordination problems demonstrated by weakness and gait unsteadiness that were similar to MS symptoms in humans. 
    When the oligodendrocytes in the lab dish experiments were treated with a syncytin-medium that had also been treated with ferulic acid, a free radical scavenger, the researchers found that the levels of cell death were reduced. 
    Treatment with ferulic acid also reversed the MS-like symptoms the mice demonstarted. 


More on Ferulic Acid
(modified from the Winter 2004 New Horizons)

    The preceeding column discussed the positive research results using ferulic acid  with both lab dish brain cells and mice.  Following is more information about ferulic acid. 
    Except for body-builders, hardly anyone is familiar with this antioxidant. Ferulic acid is found as part of the plant sterol, gamma-oryzanol.   This complex compound gamma-oryzanol is found in food sources such as rice bran oil and  brown rice (one cup has 18 mg). 
     Animal studies have shown that less than 10% of dietary gamma-oryzanol is absorbed, while pure ferulic acid supplements are claimed to have an absorption rate as high as 90%.  The small amount of gamma-oryzanol that is absorbed is carried to the liver, where the compound is separated into ferulic acid and the sterol portion.  The sterol is excreted, while the ferulic acid is circulated into the blood stream and utilized by various tissues.
      Ferulic acid is a potent antioxidant.  It helps to prevent free-radical damage to cell membranes and activates the production of white blood cells to destroy foreign invaders.  Ferulic acid is particularly good at neutralizing the very damaging free radicals superoxide, hydroxyl radical and nitric oxide.  It also increases the secretion of gamma-interferon which is an immune system stimulatory protein.
     Research with either gamma-oryzanol or ferulic acid is somewhat sparse.  A 1997 double-blind study of weight lifters given gamma oryzanol disproved their claim that it made them stronger.    Two small studies done with only the ferulic acid compound indicated that it may provide some benefits.  Six trained weight lifters given 30 mg of ferulic acid daily showed strength improvement after 8 weeks, while the ones given the placebo did not demonstrate the same gains.  Six trained endurance runners demonstrated increased levels of endorphins while taking 50 mg of ferulic acid, versus when they took the placebo.         
     Both gamma-oryzanol and ferulic acid are considered to be non-toxic.  Up to 1500 mg of ferulic acid per day have not demonstrated side effects in animal studies, although the usual dosage is 250 mg two times a day.  
   Ferulic acid is only available from a few supplement suppliers.  Source Naturals offers a tablet source called:  Trans-Ferulic Acid in  250 mg tablets.   This product is carried by the internet distributor




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