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Medical researchers make important research link between active ingredient in saffron and MS
Date:11/4/2011

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered that an active ingredient in the Persian spice saffron may be a potential treatment for diseases involving neuroinflammation, such as multiple sclerosis.

Chris Power and a team of researchers in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry recently published their findings in the peer-reviewed publication, The Journal of Immunology.

"We found there is a compound in saffron, known as crocin, that exerts a protective effect in brain cell cultures and other models of MS. It prevented damage to cells that make myelin in the brain," Power said. "Myelin is insulation around nerves. MS is characterized by inflamed brain cells that have lost this protective insulation, which ultimately leads to neurodegeneration."

Power noted they are not close to a clinical trial stage yet, but the finding is still exciting.

It has been known in the research community for years that crocin protected neurons in certain situations, but Power and his team wanted to delve further into this area.

His team discovered that inflammation and a specific type of cell stress are closely linked and lead to neurodegeneration and inflammation which cause cells to lose their protective coating a process known as demyelination. In experiments conducted by Power and his colleagues, the use of crocin suppressed both inflammation and this specific type of cell stress, resulting in decreased neurological impairment in lab models and cell cultures with MS.

"There are still many questions to be answered about how crocin exerts these neuroprotective effects, but this research highlights a potential treatment role for crocin in diseases involving chronic neuroinflammation something that had not been recognized until now," says Power.

He explained the research demonstrates a new mechanism in MS, provides new potential drug targets in the future, and helps explain why physicians s
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Contact: Raquel Maurier
raquel.maurier@ualberta.ca
780-492-5986
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
Source:Eurekalert

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