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Open Access Research article

Differential solubility of curcuminoids in serum and albumin solutions: implications for analytical and therapeutic applications

Wolfgang W Quitschke

Author affiliations

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8101, USA

Citation and License

BMC Biotechnology 2008, 8:84  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-8-84

Published: 6 November 2008



Commercially available curcumin preparations contain a mixture of related polyphenols, collectively referred to as curcuminoids. These encompass the primary component curcumin along with its co-purified derivatives demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcuminoids have numerous biological activities, including inhibition of cancer related cell proliferation and reduction of amyloid plaque formation associated with Alzheimer disease. Unfortunately, the solubility of curcuminoids in aqueous solutions is exceedingly low. This restricts their systemic availability in orally administered formulations and limits their therapeutic potential.


Methods are described that achieve high concentrations of soluble curcuminoids in serum. Solid curcuminoids were either mixed directly with serum, or they were predissolved in dimethyl sulfoxide and added as aliquots to serum. Both methods resulted in high levels of curcuminoid-solubility in mammalian sera from different species. However, adding aliquots of dimethyl sulfoxide-dissolved curcuminoids to serum proved to be more efficient, producing soluble curcuminoid concentrations of at least 3 mM in human serum. The methods also resulted in the differential solubility of individual curcuminoids in serum. The addition of dimethyl sulfoxide-dissolved curcuminoids to serum preferentially solubilized curcumin, whereas adding solid curcuminoids predominantly solubilized bisdemethoxycurcumin. Either method of solubilization was equally effective in inhibiting dose-dependent HeLa cell proliferation in culture. The maximum concentration of curcuminoids achieved in serum was at least 100-fold higher than that required for inhibiting cell proliferation in culture and 1000-fold higher than the concentration that has been reported to prevent amyloid plaque formation associated with Alzheimer disease. Curcuminoids were also highly soluble in solutions of purified albumin, a major component of serum.


These results suggest the possibility of alternative therapeutic approaches by injection or infusion of relatively small amounts of curcuminoid-enriched serum. They also provide tools to reproducibly solubilize curcuminoids for analysis in cell culture applications. The differential solubility of curcuminoids achieved by different methods of solubilization offers convenient alternatives to assess the diverse biological effects contributed by curcumin and its derivatives.