Tag Archives: University of South Australia (UniSA)

Get your curcumin delivered by nanoparticles

Curcumin is a constituent of turmeric (used in cooking and as a remedy in Ayurvedic medicine). It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled across a curcumin story (scientists have been trying to find a way to exploit its therapeutic qualities for years). The latest news comes from Australia, which is a little unexpected as most of the ‘curcumin research stories’ previously on this blog have come from India.

A March 5, 2020 news item on ScienceDaily announces new research on curcumin therapeutic possibilities,

For years, curry lovers have sworn by the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, but its active compound, curcumin, has long frustrated scientists hoping to validate these claims with clinical studies.

The failure of the body to easily absorb curcumin has been a thorn in the side of medical researchers seeking scientific proof that curcumin can successfully treat cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and many other chronic health conditions.

Now, researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA), McMaster University in Canada and Texas A&M University have shown that curcumin can be delivered effectively into human cells via tiny nanoparticles.

Over three years ago on December 2, 2016, researchers from McMaster University made this video about Alzheimer’s and curcumin research available,

From the McMaster University, Centre for Health Economics & Policy Analysis, December 2, 2016 news webpage,

This video investigates the therapeutic potential of curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The information presented in this video has integrated research including in vitro studies that aimed to observe the influence of curcumin based interventions in the neuropathology of Alzheimer’s disease. From mechanisms for neurogenesis to the disintegration of beta amyloid plaques, this video highlights that there are many pathways by which curcumin can elicit its effects. However, there are currently not enough human trials to support the mouse-model studies for turmeric’s ability to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Back to the latest work, a March 5, 2020 UniSA press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes curcumin research that focuses on STI’s (sexually transmitted infections), also mentioned is earlier work on Alzheimer’s Disease,

Sanjay Garg, a professor of pharmaceutical science at UniSA, and his colleague Dr Ankit Parikh are part of an international team that has developed a nano formulation which changes curcumin’s behaviour to increase its oral bioavailability by 117 per cent.

The researchers have shown in animal experiments that nanoparticles containing curcumin not only prevents cognitive deterioration but also reverses the damage. This finding paves the way for clinical development trials for Alzheimer’s.

Co-author Professor Xin-Fu Zhou, a UniSA neuroscientist, says the new formulation offers a potential solution for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Curcumin is a compound that suppresses oxidative stress and inflammation, both key pathological factors for Alzheimer’s, and it also helps remove amyloid plaques, small fragments of protein that clump together in the brains of Alzheimer disease patients,” Prof Zhou says.

The same delivery method is now being tested to show that curcumin can also prevent the spread of genital herpes.

“To treat genital herpes (HSV-2) you need a form of curcumin that is better absorbed, which is why it needs to be encapsulated in a nano formulation,” Prof Garg says.

“Curcumin can stop the genital herpes virus, it helps in reducing the inflammation and makes it less susceptible to HIV and other STIs,” Prof Garg says.

Women are biologically more vulnerable to genital herpes as bacterial and viral infections in the female genital tract (FGT) impair the mucosal barrier. Curcumin, however, can minimize genital inflammation and control against HSV-2 infection, which would assist in the prevention of HIV infection in the FGT.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the latest paper,

Curcumin Can Decrease Tissue Inflammation and the Severity of HSV-2 Infection in the Female Reproductive Mucosa by Danielle Vitali, Puja Bagri, Jocelyn M. Wessels, Meenakshi Arora, Raghu Ganugula, Ankit Parikh, Talveer Mandur, Allison Felker, Sanjay Garg, M.N.V. Ravi Kumar, and Charu Kaushic. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(1), 337; DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21010337 Published: 4 January 2020

This is an open access paper and is part of the journal’s Special Issue Curcumin in Health and Disease: New Knowledge)

For anyone interested in the earlier work on Alzheimer’s Disease, here are links to two papers that were published in 2018 by a team led by Sanjay Garg,

Curcumin-loaded self-nanomicellizing solid dispersion system: part I: development, optimization, characterization, and oral bioavailability by Ankit Parikh, Krishna Kathawala, Yunmei Song, Xin-Fu Zhou & Sanjay Garg. Drug Delivery and Translational Research volume 8, pages 1389–1405 (2018) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13346-018-0543-3 Issue Date: October 2018

Curcumin-loaded self-nanomicellizing solid dispersion system: part II: in vivo safety and efficacy assessment against behavior deficit in Alzheimer disease by Ankit Parikh, Krishna Kathawala, Jintao Li, Chi Chen, Zhengnan Shan, Xia Cao, Xin-Fu Zhou & Sanjay Garg. Drug Delivery and Translational Research volume 8, pages 1406–1420 (2018) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13346-018-0570-0 Issue Date: October 2018

Neither of these paper is open access but you can gain access by contacting sanjay.garg@unisa.edu.au

This looks like exciting work, bearing in mind the latest curcumin research on an STI was performed on female mice. As for the Alzheimer’s papers, that curcumin research was also performed on animals, presumably mice. As the press release noted, “This finding paves the way for clinical development trials for Alzheimer’s.” Oddly, there’s no mention of clinical trials for STI’s.

Australian scientists say that sunscreens with zinc oxide nanoparticles aren’t toxic to you

The Australians have had quite the struggle over whether or not to use nanotechnology-enabled sunscreens (see my Feb. 9, 2012 posting about an Australian nanosunscreen debacle and I believe the reverberations continue even ’til today). This latest research will hopefully help calm the waters. From a Dec. 4, 2018 news item on ScienceDaily,

Zinc oxide (ZnO) has long been recognized as an effective sunscreen agent. However, there have been calls for sunscreens containing ZnO nanoparticles to be banned because of potential toxicity and the need for caution in the absence of safety data in humans. An important new study provides the first direct evidence that intact ZnO nanoparticles neither penetrate the human skin barrier nor cause cellular toxicity after repeated application to human volunteers under in-use conditions. This confirms that the known benefits of using ZnO nanoparticles in sunscreens clearly outweigh the perceived risks, reports the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

A December 4, 2018 Elsevier (Publishing) press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides international context for the safety discussion while providing more details about this latest research,

The safety of nanoparticles used in sunscreens has been a highly controversial international issue in recent years, as previous animal exposure studies found much higher skin absorption of zinc from application of ZnO sunscreens to the skin than in human studies. Some public advocacy groups have voiced concern that penetration of the upper layer of the skin by sunscreens containing ZnO nanoparticles could gain access to the living cells in the viable epidermis with toxic consequences, including DNA damage. A potential danger, therefore, is that this concern may also result in an undesirable downturn in sunscreen use. A 2017 National Sun Protection Survey by the Cancer Council Australia found only 55 percent of Australians believed it was safe to use sunscreen every day, down from 61 per cent in 2014.

Investigators in Australia studied the safety of repeated application of agglomerated ZnO nanoparticles applied to five human volunteers (aged 20 to 30 years) over five days. This mimics normal product use by consumers. They applied ZnO nanoparticles suspended in a commercial sunscreen base to the skin of volunteers hourly for six hours and daily for five days. Using multiphoton tomography with fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy, they showed that the nanoparticles remained within the superficial layers of the stratum corneum and in the skin furrows. The fate of ZnO nanoparticles was also characterized in excised human skin in vitro. They did not penetrate the viable epidermis and no cellular toxicity was seen, even after repeated hourly or daily applications typically used for sunscreens.

“The terrible consequences of skin cancer and photoaging are much greater than any toxicity risk posed by approved sunscreens,” stated lead investigator Michael S. Roberts, PhD, of the Therapeutics Research Centre, The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, Translational Research Institute, Brisbane, and School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Sansom Institute, Adelaide, QLD, Australia.

“This study has shown that sunscreens containing nano ZnO can be repeatedly applied to the skin with minimal risk of any toxicity. We hope that these findings will help improve consumer confidence in these products, and in turn lead to better sun protection and reduction in ultraviolet-induced skin aging and cancer cases,” he concluded.

“This study reinforces the important public health message that the known benefits of using ZnO nano sunscreens clearly outweigh the perceived risks of using nano sunscreens that are not supported by the scientific evidence,” commented Paul F.A. Wright, PhD, School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University, Bundoora, VIC, Australia, in an accompanying editorial. “Of great significance is the investigators’ finding that the slight increase in zinc ion concentrations in viable epidermis was not associated with cellular toxicity under conditions of realistic ZnO nano sunscreen use.

A November 21, 2018 University of South Australia press release (also on EurekAlert) provides some additional insight into the Australian situation,, Note: Links have been removed,

It’s safe to slap on the sunscreen this summer – in repeated doses – despite what you have read about the potential toxicity of sunscreens.

A new study led by the University of Queensland (UQ) and University of South Australia (UniSA) provides the first direct evidence that zinc oxide nanoparticles used in sunscreen neither penetrate the skin nor cause cellular toxicity after repeated applications.

The research, published this week in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, refutes widespread claims among some public advocacy groups – and a growing belief among consumers – about the safety of nanoparticulate-based sunscreens.

UQ and UniSA lead investigator, Professor Michael Roberts, says the myth about sunscreen toxicity took hold after previous animal studies found much higher skin absorption of zinc-containing sunscreens than in human studies.

“There were concerns that these zinc oxide nanoparticles could be absorbed into the epidermis, with toxic consequences, including DNA damage,” Professor Roberts says.

The toxicity link was picked up by consumers, sparking fears that Australians could reduce their sunscreen use, echoed by a Cancer Council 2017 National Sun Protection Survey showing a drop in the number of people who believed it was safe to use sunscreens every day.

Professor Roberts and his co-researchers in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Germany studied the safety of repeated applications of zinc oxide nanoparticles applied to five volunteers aged 20-30 years.

Volunteers applied the ZnO nanoparticles every hour for six hours on five consecutive days.

“Using superior imaging methods, we established that the nanoparticles remained within the superficial layers of the skin and did not cause any cellular damage,” Professor Roberts says.

“We hope that these findings help improve consumer confidence in these products and in turn lead to better sun protection. The terrible consequences of skin cancer and skin damage caused by prolonged sun exposure are much greater than any toxicity posed by approved sunscreens.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Support for the Safe Use of Zinc Oxide Nanoparticle Sunscreens: Lack of Skin Penetration or Cellular Toxicity after Repeated Application in Volunteers by Yousuf H. Mohammed, Amy Holmes, Isha N. Haridass, Washington Y. Sanchez, Hauke Studier, Jeffrey E. Grice, Heather A.E. Benson, Michael S. Roberts. Jurnal of Investigative Dermatology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jid.2018.08.024 Article in Press Published online (Dec. 4, 2018?)

As of Dec. 11, 2018, this article is open access.