Drug Derived from Curcumin May Regenerate Brain Cells after Stroke


Curcumin is a component of the spice turmeric, a member of the ginger family which is used most often in Indian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern Food. Historically, the spice has been used medicinally because it is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities. Today, it is being study as a compound that could potentially help patients regenerate brain cells after stroke.

Curcumin Hybrid Drug Repairs Four Major Brain Pathways after Stroke

Stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is disrupted, causing brain cells to die. It can be caused by a blockage of an artery (ischemic stroke) or by a rupture of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke).

Ischemic strokes are the most common form, accounting for about 87% of all cases. There is only one approved medication for ischemic stroke – tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA. This is injected intravenously to dissolve clots and reinstate blood flow before death of brain cells occur and memory and behavioral deficits result.

Curcumin may be beneficial for stroke patients because it has been shown in laboratory experiments because of its ability to prevent cell death. However, on its own, curcumin is not well absorbed by the body and may become depleted quickly. It is also blocked from entering the brain by the blood-brain barrier.


Stroke researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have created a new molecule from curcumin they are calling CNB-001. This hybrid compound does not attack clots, but instead repairs stroke damage at the molecular level that feeds and supports the neurons. The drug was found to reduce stroke-caused motor deficits, problems with muscle movement and control, in laboratory studies.

CNB-001 was found to be effective in animal models when administered up to an hour after a stroke, which correlates with about three hours in humans, the same time frame for which tPA is currently approved.

“CNB-001 has many of the same benefits of curcumin but appears to be a better choice of compound for acute stroke because it crosses the blood-brain barrier, is quickly distributed in the brain, and moderates several critical mechanisms involved in neuronal survival,” says Paul A. Lapchak PhD, director of Translational Research in the Department of Neurology.

He and his colleagues expect the new drug to move to human clinical trials soon.

Source Reference: American Heart Association International Stroke Conference Wednesday, Feb. 9
Grants from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, supported the CNB-001 study (NS060685 to PAL).

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