Background: It is known that alcohol consumption inhibits testosterone production and causes testicular atrophy. Curcumin is a phytochemical characterized by anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It was also observed that curcumin protects the liver, pancreas, and nervous system from the toxic effects of alcohol consumption. The goal of this study was to determine if curcumin protects the Leydig cells of mice from chronic alcohol administration.
Material/methods: Fifteen mice were treated daily for four weeks with a 3.0 g/kg of a 25% solution of alcohol. Fifteen mice received curcumin (80 mg/kg) added to the same alcohol solution. Fifteen mice were treated with a solution of maltose dextrins isocaloric to ethanol. Fifteen untreated mice were used as controls.
Results: In the alcohol-fed mice, numerous Leydig cells showed cytoplasmic rarefaction and increased diameter of the mitochondria. Several mitochondria had diameters three or more times larger than that of mitochondria from control mice. Numerous necrotic Leydig cells were observed. Testosterone plasma levels significantly decreased in comparison with control mice. In alcohol plus curcumin-treated mice the number of necrotic Leydig cells was reduced compared with alcohol-fed mice; the diameters of the mitochondria were significantly decreased. Testosterone plasma levels were not significantly different from those of the controls.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that curcumin exerts efficacious protection against damages caused in the Leydig cells of mice by chronic alcohol ingestion and that the preservation of mitochondrial structure and size in Leydig cells is a specific effect of curcumin.