Pharma & drug development

Could nanoparticles unlock the pharmaceutical benefits of turmeric?

The failure of the body to easily absorb curcumin has thwarted trials to discover usable pharmaceutical properties, until now. Researchers from the University of South Australia, McMaster University in Canada and Texas A&M University have shown that curcumin can be delivered effectively into human cells via tiny nanoparticles. Abi Millar finds out more. 

Turmeric has a complicated history within medicine. On one hand, it has been used within Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, predominantly to treat sprains and boost digestive function. It is considered highly bioactive, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and has latterly gained a reputation as a superfood.

On the other hand, its best-known active compound, curcumin, has failed to live up to its hype. In 2017, a review into the scientific literature on curcumin suggested that the compound had few actual health benefits.

Because it is so unstable and reactive, it quickly disintegrates within the body, and does not have the kind of properties you would ideally seek in a drug candidate. In fact, with a bioavailability of less than 1%, curcumin is considered by some researchers to be a therapeutic dead end.

Read the rest of this article in the June 2020 edition of Pharma Technology Focus

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