Research Highlight

Curcumin-based nanoconjugate could treat liver cancer

doi:10.1038/nindia.2015.125 Published online 11 September 2015

A nanoconjugate of curcumin and gum arabic that inhibits the growth of liver cancer cells has been synthesized by researchers1.

Curcumin alleviates the symptoms of various diseases, including various cancers, but since free curcumin is insoluble in water, it cannot be used as drug.

To make curcumin water soluble, the researchers produced a nanoconjugate by attaching curcumin to gum arabic, which contains dissolvable polysaccharides. They evaluated the stability, solubility, cellular uptake and anticancer effects of the nanoconjugate by exposing it to different solutions, which mimicked physiological pH levels, as well as liver and breast cancer cells.

The inner shell of the nanoconjugate contained water-repelling curcumin, while the outer shell (which was 270 nanometres in diameter) was made of water-loving gum arabic. This structure increased the solubility of curcumin 900 fold.

While the nanoconjugate easily permeated the membranes of both cancer cells, it showed greater toxicity to liver cancer cells than breast cancer cells.

The nanoconjugate did not disintegrate even after being stored for 5 hours at 37 degrees Celsius in phosphate buffer saline, whereas free curcumin degraded completely within 25 minutes.

The nanoconjugate released curcumin at acidic pH levels, suggesting its therapeutic potential against cancer, since cancer cells create an acidic environment.


1. Sarika, P. R. et al. Gum arabic-curcumin conjugate micelles with enhanced loading for curcumin delivery to hepatocarcinoma cells. Carbohydr. Polymers 134, 167–174 (2015)