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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Spice 'may fight cystic fibrosis'
Turmeric is used in curry
A spice used in curry and mustard may benefit people with cystic fibrosis, a study suggests.

Scientists in the United States have found that an ingredient in turmeric can reduce symptoms in mice with the disease and help them to live longer.

Writing in Science, they said research is now needed to see if curcumin has the same effect in humans.

Experts have welcomed the study saying it could lead to new treatments for people with the disease.

Fatal disease

Cystic fibrosis is a fatal disease in which thick mucous clogs the lungs and pancreas, trapping bacteria and harming digestion.

It is usually caused by a genetic mutation that leads the body's cells to make abnormal versions of a protein called deltaF508.

This is research that really has the potential, I think, to benefit patients down the road
Dr Peter Mogayzel,
Johns Hopkins Hospital
The protein is then prevented by the body's "quality control" machinery from travelling to the cell surface and performing its normal function, balancing cellular salt content.

Curcumin appears to help the deltaF508 molecules escape the cell machinery and travel safely to the surface.

The researchers, led by Marie Egan of Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, fed the compound to mice with a version of CF.

Reporting their findings today in the journal Science, they described how deltaF508 was seen to be working properly in the mice.

Major symptoms of the disease disappeared, and only 10% of the treated mice died within 10 weeks compared with 60% of the untreated animals.

Dr Peter Mogayzel, director of the Cystic Fibrosis Centre at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, welcomed the study.

"This is research that really has the potential, I think, to benefit patients down the road."


SEE ALSO:
Cystic fibrosis
28 Jul 03  |  Medical notes


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