Effect of liposomal curcumin on red blood cells in vitro

Anticancer Res. 2013 Sep;33(9):3629-34.


Background: The anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative agent curcumin has poor oral bioavailability and solubility in plasma. Liposomal formulations have therefore been developed, but the toxicity of these preparations is not yet established. We investigated the influence of free and liposomally formulated curcumin on human red blood cell (RBC) morphology in vitro.

Materials and methods: EDTA-buffered whole blood from two healthy individuals was incubated with different concentrations (1, 10, 100 μg/ml) of free or liposomal curcumin. RBC morphology and mean cellular volume (MCV) were examined at up to 4 hours of incubation.

Results: Dose-dependent echinocyte formation was observed after incubation with free, and liposomal curcumin, with a threshold concentration of 10 μg/ml and peak effect after 30 minutes. A concomitant increase in mean cellular volume was detectable.

Conclusion: Curcumin and liposomal curcumin cause dose-dependent changes in the shape of RBCs. This effect may represent an early sign of dose-limiting toxicity following intravenous administration.

Keywords: Cucumin; echinocyte; liposomes; morphology; red blood cells.

MeSH terms

  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects*
  • Hemolysis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Liposomes*


  • Liposomes
  • Curcumin