Washington, March 7 (ANI): Indian "holy powder" turmeric's health-related properties are due to its ability to make cell membranes more orderly, which improves cells' resistance to infection and malignancy, according to a study.
Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, of the University of Michigan, has found it out after studying how turmeric's main ingredient curcumin obtains its healing powers.
This finding attains significance because very little has been known about exactly how curcumin works inside the body.
"The membrane goes from being crazy and floppy to being more disciplined and ordered, so that information flow through it can be controlled," said Ramamoorthy, a professor of chemistry and biophysics.
He recalled how, as a child in India, he was given turmeric-laced milk to drink when he had a cold, and he breathed steam infused with turmeric to relieve congestion.
Presently, as a scientist, he is fascinated with proteins that are associated with biological membranes, and uses a technique called solid-state NMR spectroscopy to reveal atom-level details of the important molecules and the membranous milieu in which they operate.
His team used a two-dimensional solid-state NMR technique to probe curcumin-membrane communication during the current study.
While it has long been suggested that curcumin does its health-promoting work by interacting directly with membrane proteins, the study's findings challenge that notion.
The researchers have instead found that curcumin regulates the action of membrane proteins indirectly, by changing the physical properties of the membrane.
Ramamoorthy and his colleagues are now planning to study a variety of curcumin derivatives, some of which have enhanced potency.
"We want to see how these various derivatives interact with the membrane, to see if the interactions are the same as what we have observed in the current study. Such a comparative study could lead to the development of potent compounds to treat infection and other diseases," he said.
A research article on their study has been published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. (ANI)