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Signaling pathways targeted by curcumin in acute and chronic injury: burns and photo-damaged skin



Dr Madalene C. Y. Heng, md, fracp, facd, faad

Centers for Family Health

Community Memorial Hospital

2361 E. Vineyard Ave


CA 93036




Phosphorylase kinase (PhK) is a unique enzyme in which the spatial arrangements of the specificity determinants can be manipulated to allow the enzyme to recognize substrates of different specificities. In this way, PhK is capable of transferring high energy phosphate bonds from ATP to serine/threonine and tyrosine moieties in serine/threonine kinases and tyrosine kinases, thus playing a key role in the activation of multiple signaling pathways. Phosphorylase kinase is released within five minutes following injury and is responsible for activating inflammatory pathways in injury-activated scarring following burns. In photo-damaged skin, PhK plays an important role in promoting photocarcinogenesis through activation of NF-kB-dependent signaling pathways with inhibition of apoptosis of photo-damaged cells, thus promoting the survival of precancerous cells and allowing for subsequent tumor transformation. Curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice, turmeric, is a selective and non-competitive PhK inhibitor. By inhibition of PhK, curcumin targets multiple PhK-dependent pathways, with salutary effects on a number of skin diseases induced by injury. In this paper, we show that curcumin gel produces rapid healing of burns, with little or no residual scarring. Curcumin gel is also beneficial in the repair of photo-damaged skin, including pigmentary changes, solar elastosis, thinning of the skin with telangiectasia (actinic poikiloderma), and premalignant lesions such as actinic keratoses, dysplastic nevi, and advanced solar lentigines, but the repair process takes many months.