Timed release of saffron stops cancer cell growth – ScienceDaily


A research team at Washington State University has developed a drug delivery system using curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, which successfully inhibits bone cancer cells and promotes the growth of healthy bone cells.

The work could lead to better post-operative treatment for people with osteosarcoma, the second most prevalent cause of cancer death in children.

Researchers, including Susmita Bose, Herman and Brita Lindholm, Full Professor of the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and undergraduate student Naboneeta Sarkar, report their work in the journal, Applied Materials and ACS Interfaces.

Young patients with bone cancer are often treated with high doses of chemotherapy before and after surgery, many of which have harmful side effects. Researchers would like to develop milder treatment options, especially after surgery, when patients are trying to recover from bone damage, while taking severe medications to suppress tumor growth.

Saffron has been used in cooking and as medicine for centuries in Asian countries, and its active ingredient, curcumin has been shown to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and bone-building capabilities. It has also been shown to prevent various forms of cancers.

"I want people to know the beneficial effects of these natural compounds," Bose said. "Natural biomolecules derived from these herbal products are cheap and a safer alternative to synthetic drugs."

However, when taken orally as a medicament, the compound can not be absorbed well into the body. It is metabolized and eliminated very quickly.

In their study, the researchers used 3D printing to build support scaffolds with calcium phosphate. While most implants are currently made of metal, these ceramic scaffolds, which are more like real bone, may one day be used as graft material after bone cancer surgery. The researchers incorporated curcumin, encapsulated in a vesicle of fat molecules in the scaffolds, allowing for the gradual release of the chemical.

The researchers found that their system inhibited the growth of osteosarcoma cells by 96 percent after 11 days compared to untreated samples. The system also promoted healthy growth of bone cells.

"This study introduces a new era of integration – where modern 3D printing technology is coupled with the safe and effective use of alternative medicine, which can provide a better tool for bone tissue engineering," said Bose.

The researchers continue the exclusive research area, studying the benefits of integrating other natural compounds into biomedical technology. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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