Curcumin has many pharmacological activities despite its poor bioavailability and in vivo stability. Here, we show that a nanoformulated curcumin (PLGA-curcumin) has better therapeutic index than native curcumin in preventing the onset of neurological symptoms and delaying the death of mice in experimental cerebral malaria. Oral PLGA-curcumin was at least as effective as native curcumin at a 15-fold lower concentration in preventing the breakdown of blood-brain barrier and inhibition of brain mRNAs for inflammatory cytokines, chemokine receptor CXCR3 and its ligand CXCL10, with an increase in the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. This was also reflected in serum cytokine and chemokine levels. At equivalent concentrations, a single oral dose of PLGA-curcumin was more effective in inhibiting serum IFNγ levels and enhancing IL-10 levels than native curcumin. Even at low concentrations, PLGA-curcumin was superior to native curcumin in inhibiting the sequestration of parasitized-RBCs and CD8+ T cells in the brain. A single oral dose of 5 mg PLGA-curcumin containing 350 μg of curcumin resulted in 3-4 fold higher concentration and prolonged presence of curcumin in the brain than that obtained with 5 mg of native curcumin, indicating better bioavailability of PLGA-curcumin. PLGA-curcumin has potential as an adjunct drug to treat human cerebral malaria.
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