CSULB professor fights Alzheimer’s with supplement

Vasanthy Narayanaswami is working toward developing what she calls “good cholesterol” in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

Narayanaswami, an assistant chemistry and biochemistry professor, discussed Cal State Long Beach’s latest findings at the Pyramid Annex Conference room Nov. 16.

She said there is a direct correlation between specific diet foods and the low rate of Alzheimer’s disease in places like Southeast Asia. In such locations, the concentration of the antioxidant curcumin, a bioflavonoid or plant compound, is relatively high.

The good cholesterol she spoke of could potentially carry therapeutic amounts of this particular bioflavonoid, which in recent studies has been effective against Alzheimer’s disease.

Darin Khumsupan, a student ambassador and a researcher alongside Narayanaswami, explained that the primary objective of the study is to “destroy plaque, specifically beta-amyloid, which is one of the leading causes of [the degenerative disease].”

Khumsupan joined Narayanaswami in the research over a year ago when her brother and co-author of the study’s first publication introduced her.

Curcumin’s chemically rich makeup depletes after the liver metabolizes its content. Therefore, learning how to bypass digestion of the vital lipid is a primary goal for Narayanaswani and her team.

Another obstacle for researchers working toward the cure is what Narayanaswami refers to as “the blood-brain barrier.” Although this internal mechanism serves to protect the brain from foreign threats, its presence also prevents the transmission of helpful agents such as curcumin.

Therefore, researchers need to successfully disguise the lipid as what the brain would recognize as cholesterol. One student equated the biochemical relationship to the tale of the Trojan horse.

The key to unlocking this agent’s potential is through a carefully engineered disguise, she said.

Similar to how oil and water can mix simply after adding a detergent, Narayanaswami claimed that high-density lipids, or good cholesterol, structurally rearrange themselves and provide an effective disguise for the preventative curcumin to Alzheimer’s disease.

Narayanaswami has released seven publications since her arrival at Cal State Long Beach in 2008, three of which are co-authored by students from the university.

More than 5.3 million Americans suffer from the debilitating loss of brain cells and Narayanaswami predicts that by 2025, more than 25 million people worldwide will fall victim to the disease.

There is no “silver bullet” cure when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, Narayanaswami said.

The recent findings conducted by Narayanaswami and her team of students suggests that curcumin has the potential to postpone and possibly reverse the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

“However, loading up on Indian food where curcumin is most prevalent will not solve the problem,” Narayanaswami joked.


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