Induction of apoptosis in HeLa cancer cells by an ultrasonic-mediated synthesis of curcumin-loaded chitosan-alginate-STPP nanoparticles

Int J Nanomedicine. 2017 Nov 29;12:8545-8556. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S146516. eCollection 2017.


Natural herbal compounds have been widely introduced as an alternative therapeutic approach in cancer therapy. Despite potent anticancer activity of curcumin, its clinical application has been limited because of low water solubility and resulting poor bioavailability. In this study, we designed a novel ultrasonic-assisted method for the synthesis of curcumin-loaded chitosan-alginate-sodium tripolyphosphate nanoparticles (CS-ALG-STPP NPs). Furthermore, antitumor effect of curcumin-loaded NPs was evaluated in vitro. Field emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) were used to characterize the properties of NPs. Antitumor activity of curcumin-loaded NPs was assessed by using MTT and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). FE-SEM and AFM data revealed the spherical morphology, and the average size of NPs was <50 nm. In vitro cytotoxicity assay suggested that curcumin-loaded CS-ALG-STPP NPs displayed significant antitumor activity compared with the free curcumin. Gene expression level analyses showed that curcumin NPs significantly increased the apoptotic gene expression. Collectively, our results suggest that curcumin-loaded NPs significantly suppressed proliferation and promoted the induction of apoptosis in human cervical epithelioid carcinoma cancer cells, which might be regarded as an effective alternative strategy for cancer therapy.

Keywords: antitumor activity; apoptosis induction; biodegradable nanoparticles; cancer; curcumin.

MeSH terms

  • Alginates / chemistry
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Chitosan / chemistry
  • Curcumin / chemistry
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Liberation
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Glucuronic Acid / chemistry
  • HeLa Cells / drug effects
  • Hexuronic Acids / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Particle Size
  • Solubility
  • Ultrasonics


  • Alginates
  • Hexuronic Acids
  • Glucuronic Acid
  • Chitosan
  • Curcumin