HANGZHOU, March 30 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese prostate cancer researcher says that a compound in ginger and curry powder could bring a glimmer of hope to patients suffering from Kennedy's disease, a debilitating neurode generative condition that only affects men.
The compound, known as ASC-J9 and found in curcumin -- the bright yellow spice in curry powder -- dramatically slowed the progression of the disease in mice that carried the mutant human gene that causes the disease, Dr. Yang Zhiming of China's Zhejiang University told Xinhua on Friday.
The tests, conducted by Yang and a research team under Prof. Chawnshang Chang at the University of Rochester Medical Center, involved 60 pairs of mice, each pair consisting of one treated and one untreated mouse.
"The mice that were treated with ASC-J9 were more mobile than their untreated counterparts," said Yang. "They walked better and dragged their legs less often; their muscles appeared to work better and they lived 40 percent longer than the untreated mice."
The tests also proved that the mice treated were able to mate and produce offspring, while their untreated partners could not, he said.
While a great deal more research needs to be done to see if the compound could be developed into a drug to help Kennedy's disease sufferers, Dr. Yang says it is a promising development in a field where progress has been slow.
"It will take several years to develop ASC-J9 into a drug for clinical use, but if successful, it will provide the first ever cure for Kennedy's disease," he said.
Kennedy's disease, also known as spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, attacks one out of 40,000 people. Symptoms typically include difficulty in speaking and swallowing, and weakness in the arms and legs. Patients are often diagnosed in their 30s and 40s, and many end up using a wheelchair.
Yang, 35, was the first author of the study, which appeared in the March edition of the journal Nature Medicine. He earned his doctorate under Prof. Chawnshang Chang, a prostate cancer expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Prof. Chang found earlier that pungent food, including onions and garlic, may cut men's risk of prostate cancer by half.
Ginger is widely used in China as a folk medicine to treat male baldness and promote perspiration to fight cold.
In the past decade, western medicine has tested curry, finding that the spice can help fight breast cancer, Alzheimer's disease and the blisters that come after radiation treatment for cancer.