In recent years, laboratory and animal studies have suggested that curcumin–the pigment that gives the Indian curry spice turmeric its bright-yellow hue–could be useful for treating tumors, cystic fibrosis, and even Alzheimer’s disease. But curcumin is insoluble and not readily absorbed by the body, making it impractical as a drug.
Now researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Delhi, in India, have invented curcumin-carrying nanospheres that slip easily into the bloodstream. Anirban Maitra, an associate professor of pathology and oncology at Johns Hopkins, and his collaborators in Delhi used polymers to make particles about 50 nanometers in diameter. The nanoparticles (left) have hydrophobic interiors that hold the curcumin and hydrophilic exteriors that make them more readily absorbed. Once the particles are in the blood, the curcumin leaks out as the polymers slowly degrade. Maitra and colleagues are now planning animal studies.