Curcumin, originally used in traditional medicine and as a spice, is one of the most studied and most popular natural products of the past decade. It has been described to be an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer drug and protects against chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis. Despite these promising pharmacological properties, curcumin is also very lipophilic, which makes its formulation challenging. Ideally the nanocarrier should additionally also retain the encapsulated curcumin to provide target tissue accumulation.
In this study we aimed to tackle this aqueous solubility and carrier retention challenge of curcumin by encapsulating curcumin in different nanoparticles. We successfully loaded LDL (30 nm), polymeric micelles (80 nm), liposomes (180 nm) and Intralipid (280 nm) with curcumin. The relative loading capacity was inversely related to the size of the particle. The stability for all formulations was determined in fetal bovine serum over a course of 24 h.
Although all curcumin-nanoparticles were stable in buffer solution, all leaked more than 70% of curcumin under physiological conditions. Altogether, tested nanoparticles do solve the aqueous insolubility problem of curcumin, however, because of their leaky nature, the challenge of carrier retention remains.