Research Highlight

Curcumin protects nerve cells from toxic chemical

doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.97 Published online 26 July 2016

Curcumin, the bright yellow chemical found in turmeric, protects nerve cells from the damaging effects of a toxic chemical called bisphenol A, widely used in plastic products, new research suggests1

Curcumin is known to protect nerve cells in neurodegenerative disorders, but its protective role against bisphenol A was unknown. Bisphenol A enters the body through food kept in plastic containers and could damage the brain by crossing the placental and blood-brain-barrier. 

To find out whether curcumin could protect nerve cells against bisphenol A toxicity, the researchers treated the neural stem cells isolated from rat brain with bisphenol A. They then treated the stem cells with curcumin. Exposure to bisphenol A stopped the growth of the stem cells while curcumin treatment negated the toxic effects by restoring their growth.

The scientists found that bisphenol A exposure reduced the expressions of certain genes such as nestin, Pax-6 and Stat-3 which play a vital role in accelerating the growth of the stem cells during brain development. Curcumin treatment enhanced the expression of these genes in the hippocampus region of the brain.

“Curcumin treatment also enhanced the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus of bisphenol-A-treated pregnant and lactating rats, suggesting that curcumin may be used to counter the toxic effects of this chemical,” says lead researcher Rajnish Chaturvedi from the CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow.


1. Tiwari, S. K. et al. Bisphenol-A mediated inhibition of hippocampal neurogenesis attenuated by curcumin via canonical Wnt pathway. Mol. Neurobiol. 53, 3010-3029 (2016)