[Image: Simon A. Eugster via Wikimedia]

Turmeric is a spice used in a variety of dishes, including curry – it’s what gives the Indian staple its bright yellow color. It’s a lot more than just delicious, though – turmeric has medicinal qualities that have been used for thousands of years. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, has been found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and bone-building capabilities, as well as to guard against certain forms of cancer. Wonderful, you might say, so I just need to eat a lot more curry? It’s not quite that simple – even taking turmeric as an oral supplement isn’t effective enough, because the compound isn’t absorbed well in the body. It’s metabolized and eliminated too quickly.

There are ways to get the medicinal benefits of turmeric, though, especially its bone-growing properties. Researchers at Washington State University recently conducted a study in which they coated 3D printed ceramic bone scaffolds with curcumin. They encased it in a water-loving polymer so that it could be gradually released from the scaffolds, and found that the curcumin increased the viability and proliferation of new bone cells and blood vessels in surrounding tissue, and also accelerated the healing process.

Treating diseases such as osteoporosis with curcumin is an intriguing possibility. Osteoporosis happens as we age, because the bone cycling process – the formation and resorption of bone cells – slows down, making bones weaker and more prone to fracture. Most medicines for osteoporosis work by slowing down the destruction of old bone cells or by forming new bone, which may increase bone density but can create an imbalance in the natural bone remodeling cycle, resulting in poorer quality bone.

The research was led by Susmita Bose, the Herman and Brita Lindholm Endowed Chair Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. She hopes that it may result in medicines that create healthier bone without affectign the bone remodeling cycle.

“In the end, it’s the bone quality that matters,” she said.

The research was published in a study entitled “Effects of PCL, PEG and PLGA polymers on curcumin release from calcium phospate matrix for in vitro and in vivo bone regeneration,” which you can access here. Additional authors include Naboneeta Sarkar and Dishary Banerjee. The researchers will continue their work, looking at the protein and cellular level to gain better understanding of exactly how curcumin works. They are also working to improve the efficiency and control of the process. According to Bose, the challenge with natural compounds is that they are often large organic molecules.

“You have to use the right vehicle for delivery,” she said. “We need to load and get it released in a controlled and sustained way. The chemistry of vehicle delivery is very important.”

Bose has health issues of her own that started her down the path of investigating natural cures alongside modern medicine, an interest that increased after she had children.

“As a mother and having a chemistry background, I realized I didn’t want my children to be exposed to so many chemicals for every illness,” Bose said. “I started looking at home remedies.”

The researchers are studying other natural remedies in addition to curcumin, including compounds from aloe vera, saffron, Vitamin D, garlic, oregano and ginger. Bose is particularly interested in compounds that might help with bone disorders, including those that encourage bone growth or have anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer properties.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source/Images: Washington State University]

 

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