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Nanotechnology. 2017 Mar 7;28(13):135103. doi: 10.1088/1361-6528/aa5e86. [Epub ahead of print]

Preparation of carotenoid extracts and nanoemulsions from Lycium barbarum L. and their effects on growth of HT-29 colon cancer cells.

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Department of Food Science, Fu Jen Catholic University, New Taipei City 242, Taiwan.


Lycium barbarum L., a traditional Chinese herb widely used in Asian countries, has been demonstrated to be protective against chronic diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. The objectives of this study were to determine the carotenoid content in L. barbarum by high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, followed by preparation of a carotenoid nanoemulsion to evaluate the mechanism of inhibition on HT-29 colon cancer cells. The highest extraction yield of carotenoids was attained by employing a solvent system of hexane-ethanol-acetone (1:1:1, v/v/v). Nine carotenoids, including neoxanthin (4.47 μg g-1), all-trans-zeaxanthin and its cis-isomers (1666.3 μg g-1), all-trans-β-cryptoxanthin (51.69 μg g-1), all-trans-β-carotene and its cis-isomers (20.11 μg g-1), were separated within 45 min and quantified using a YMC C30 column and a gradient mobile phase of methanol-water (9:1, v/v) (A) and methylene chloride (B). A highly stable carotenoid nanoemulsion composed of CapryolTM 90, Transcutol®HP, Tween 80 and deionized water was prepared with a mean particle size of 15.1 nm. Characterization of zeaxanthin standard, blank nanoemulsion, carotenoid extract and carotenoid nanoemulsion by differential scanning calorimetry curves and Fourier transform infrared spectra revealed a good dispersion of zeaxanthin-dominated carotenoid extract with no significant chemical change after incorporation into nanoemulsion. The in vitro release kinetic study showed a higher release profile at pH 5.2 than at physiological pH 7.4, suggesting a rapid release of carotenoids in the acidic environment (pH 4.5-6.5) characteristic of tumors. Both the carotenoid nanoemulsion and the extract were effective at inhibiting growth of HT-29 colon cancer cells, with an IC50 of 4.5 and 4.9 μg ml-1, respectively. Also, both treatments could up-regulate p53 and p21 expression and down-regulate CDK2, CDK1, cyclin A and cyclin B expression and arrest the cell cycle at G2/M. The study may form a basis for further exploration of L. barbarum nanoemulsion in cancer treatment.


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