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Biological Chemistry

Curry Compound Shows Promise Drug

by Bethany Halford
April 26, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 17

There’s more good news about curry.

According to a new report, curcumin—an anticancer compound (C&EN, Sept. 1, 2003, page 8) that is a major constituent of the spice turmeric—may offer promise for treating cystic fibrosis.

In the study, researchers at Yale University School of Medicine and the University of Toronto found that in mice, curcumin can correct a defect that commonly causes cystic fibrosis [Science, 304, 600 (2004)]. That defect, a mutation in the gene F508, results in a misfolded protein. The misfolded protein gets removed by the cell’s “quality control” mechanisms and therefore never reaches the cell surface to perform its usual function.

Yale professor Michael J. Caplan and colleagues found that when they feed curcumin to mice with the F508 mutation, the misfolded protein appears to evade excision and goes on to perform its normal function in the cells that line the rodent’s nose and rectum. Caplan’s group cautions that their success in treating mice does not guarantee that curcumin will be effective in humans. The group is optimistic, however, because studies have shown that people can consume large amounts of curcumin without apparent toxicity.


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