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Phytother Res. 2013 Dec;27(12):1868-73. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4945. Epub 2013 Mar 11.

Assessment of cytotoxic properties of safranal and nanoliposomal safranal in various cancer cell lines.

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Nanotechnology Research Centre, School of Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran.


Saffron (Crocus sativus) is a widely used food additive used for its color and taste. It has been reported that saffron possesses significant in vivo and in vitro anti-tumor activity. In the present study, anti-tumor effects of safranal, the major aromatic compound in saffron, and its liposomal form were investigated. The role of apoptosis has also been explored in this toxicity. HeLa, MCF7 and L929 cell lines were cultured and exposed to safranal (0.01-3 mM) or liposomal safranal (0.04-0.32 mM). 3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium (MTT) assay was performed to assess cytotoxicity. Apoptosis was evaluated by staining cells with propidium iodide and quantifying sub-Gl peak by flow cytometry. MTT assay revealed a significant and concentration-dependent cytotoxic effect of safranal on HeLa and MCF7 cell lines. Liposomal safranal showed enhanced effect compared to the safranal solution, as compared by their IC50 concentrations. Flow cytometry results revealed induction of apoptosis by safranal. It might be concluded that safranal could be involved in saffron-induced cell death in HeLa and MCF7 cells. Liposome encapsulation improved anti-tumor effect of safranal. Safranal and particularly its liposomal form could be investigated as promising chemotherapeutic agents in cancer treatment.


apoptosis; cytotoxicity; nanoliposome; saffron; safranal

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