Brighton scientists help unlock ‘disease-fighting’ component of turmeric

Dr Zheng, Dr Pannala, British Ambassador Gareth Ward, Dr Duong Ngoc Tu from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, and Professor Smart.
Dr Zheng, Dr Pannala, British Ambassador Gareth Ward, Dr Duong Ngoc Tu from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, and Professor Smart.

A breakthrough has been made in the delivery of a ‘disease-fighting constituent’ of the spice turmeric – with the help of scientists from the University of Brighton.

Academics from Brighton have been working with partners in Vietnam to extract curcumin from turmeric.

Turmeric powder (Photograph: rawpixel/ Unsplash)

Turmeric powder (Photograph: rawpixel/ Unsplash)

Scientists say curcumin has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, and has been used for the prevention and treatment of cancer, diabetes, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular disease; all diseases linked to ageing.

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The problem has been finding an effective way of delivering curcumin – but now scientists believe they have found a process that does.

Professor John Smart

Professor John Smart

Professor John Smart, the University of Brighton’s academic director of pharmacy and professor of pharmacy and biomolecular sciences, said: “Curcumin is poorly absorbed when given as a tablet or capsule, its limited solubility being a major factor.

“We have been developing a curcumin-containing tablet or capsule formulation using soluble carriers or dispersible oils that are acceptable, stable and improves bioavailability that can be manufactured without the need for expensive specialist equipment or reagents.”

The new formulation is set to be manufactured in Vietnam where the climate and soil on high ground is suitable to cultivate Curcuma longa, the plant from which turmeric and curcumin are extracted. This product will be aimed at the international market.

Professor Smart and colleagues in the University’s Biomaterials and Medical Devices and Drug Delivery Research and Enterprise Group, and researchers in Vietnam, are now seeking funding to take the project forward.

Dr Ananth Pannala

Dr Ananth Pannala

Professor Smart, Dr Ananth Pannala and Dr Yishan Zheng, from the University’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences recently visited Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology at a conference in Hanoi and met with Vietnam’s Deputy Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Bui The Duy, British Ambassador to Vietnam, Gareth Ward, and representatives of the British Council.

The Brighton team has been working with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology on formulating curcumin preparations which eventually will be marketed globally.

The £148,000 research project was funded by the Newton Institutional Links, part of the UK’s official development assistance programme, which provides grants for the development of research and innovation collaborations between the UK and partner countries.

Dr Pannala said: “The project is an example of a successful collaboration between the partners. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the school and Techbifarm, a Vietnam based healthcare company who use ‘green technology’, who will manufacture the tablets or capsules, and we have agreed to continue the collaboration into the future.”

Professor Smart and  Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, Director of Techbifarm

Professor Smart and Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, Director of Techbifarm