Effect of Curcumin on Motor Behaviors in Drosophila melanogaster PINK1 Mutant Parkinson’s Model

(1) Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia

Curcumin is a polyphenol and an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), a dietary spice commonly used in Indian cuisine and medicine. We hypothesized that an increase in curcumin fed to fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) would increase dopamine levels in the brain and mitigate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. We chose fruit flies as they have been used as a genetic model for Parkinson’s disease in the past due to their similar exhibition of proteins and genes. We acquired flies with loss-of function mutations in the PINK-1 gene to induce Parkinsonism in the flies. Both mutated flies and regular flies were fed diets with no curcumin (control) or diets containing 1.0 milligram of curcumin per gram of diet. Through a climbing assay, it was discovered that on average, fruit flies with Parkinson’s disease that were fed a curcumin-supplemented diet climbed 3 cm more than flies on the control diet, showing that motor skills were significantly improved in flies with Parkinson’s disease after curcumin was fed. Thus, we were able to demonstrate that curcumin has the potential to improve motor skills in Parkinson’s disease.

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