Curcumin, a hydrophobic polyphenol, is an extract of turmeric root with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic properties. Its lack of water solubility and relatively low bioavailability set major limitations for its therapeutic use. In this study, a self-assembling peptide hydrogel is demonstrated to be an effective vehicle for the localized delivery of curcumin over sustained periods of time. The curcumin-hydrogel is prepared in-situ where curcumin encapsulation within the hydrogel network is accomplished concurrently with peptide self-assembly. Physical and in vitro biological studies were used to demonstrate the effectiveness of curcumin-loaded β-hairpin hydrogels as injectable agents for localized curcumin delivery. Notably, rheological characterization of the curcumin-loaded hydrogel before and after shear flow have indicated solid-like properties even at high curcumin payloads. In vitro experiments with a medulloblastoma cell line confirm that the encapsulation of the curcumin within the hydrogel does not have an adverse effect on its bioactivity. Most importantly, the rate of curcumin release and its consequent therapeutic efficacy can be conveniently modulated as a function of the concentration of the MAX8 peptide.
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