Oral Nanocurcumin Alone or in Combination with Insulin Alleviates STZ-Induced Diabetic Neuropathy in Rats

Mol Pharm. 2022 Dec 5;19(12):4612-4624. doi: 10.1021/acs.molpharmaceut.2c00465. Epub 2022 Sep 15.


Diabetes mellitus (DM), a multifaceted metabolic disorder if not managed properly leads to secondary complications. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is one such complication caused by nerve damage that cannot be reversed but can be delayed. Recently, diabetes patients are using dietary supplements, although there remains a general skepticism about this practice. Curcumin (CUR), one such supplement can help prevent underlying low-grade inflammation in diabetes, but it is plagued by poor oral bioavailability. To better understand the role of bioavailability in clinical outcomes, we have tested double-headed nanosystems containing curcumin (nCUR) on DPN. Because CUR does not influence glucose levels, we have also tested the effects of nCUR combined with long-acting subcutaneous insulin (INS). nCUR with or without INS alleviates DPN at two times lower dose than unformulated CUR, as indicated by qualitative and quantitative analysis of the hind paw, sciatic nerve, spleen, and L4-6 spinal cord. In addition, nCUR and nCUR+INS preserve hind paw nerve axons as evident by the Bielschowsky silver stain and intraepidermal nerve fibers (IENF) density measured by immunofluorescence. The mechanistic studies further corroborated the results, where nCUR or nCUR+INS showed a significant decrease in TUNEL positive cells, mRNA expression of NLRP3, IL-1β, and macrophage infiltration while preserving nestin and NF200 expression in the sciatic nerve. Together, the data confirms that CUR bioavailability is proportional to clinical outcomes and INS alone may not be one of the solutions for DM. This study highlights the potential of nCUR with or without INS in alleviating DPN and warrants further investigation.

Keywords: NLRP3 inflammasomes; bioavailability; combination therapy; curcumin; diabetic peripheral neuropathy; gambogic acid; nanoparticles; oral delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Curcumin* / therapeutic use
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental* / metabolism
  • Diabetic Neuropathies* / drug therapy
  • Diabetic Neuropathies* / metabolism
  • Insulin
  • Insulin, Regular, Human
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Curcumin
  • Insulin
  • Insulin, Regular, Human