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Cancer researchers add spice to research against rare neuromuscular disease

Scientists who focus on the molecular signaling that underlies prostate cancer have discovered a compound that shows promise against a debilitating neurodegenerative condition known as Kennedy's disease, which is caused by a mutant gene. Currently there is no treatment for the inherited disorder, which resembles a slowly progressive form of Lou Gehrig's disease and affects only men.

The compound, a distant chemical relative of a component of the spice curry, dramatically slowed the progression of the disease in mice that carried the mutant human gene that causes the disease. The mice were able to walk much more normally, their muscles were much stronger, and they had near-normal levels of a vital molecule crucial for keeping nerve cells healthy.

While a great deal more research needs to be done to see if the compound could be developed into a drug to help people with the disease, scientists say it's a promising development in a field where progress has been slow.

The research by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center appears in the March 6 issue of the journal Nature Medicine.

In their search for new treatments for prostate cancer and other diseases, Chawnshang Chang, Ph.D., and his colleagues have taken a few cues from centuries of Asian tradition, where curcumin ?the bright yellow spice found in curry powder ?has been used to treat a variety of ills. In the last decade, Western medicine has been putting curry to the test, finding that the spice offers promise against breast cancer, melanoma, Alzheimer's disease and the blisters that come with radiation treatments for cancer.

Chang notes that ginger, a family of spices that includes curcumin, is widely used in China as a folk medicine to treat male-pattern baldness. That condition is caused largely by the activity of the androgen receptor, the protein that is central to the action of testosterone and other male hormones. Chang's laboratory, in collabo
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Source:University of Rochester Medical Center


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