Traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) have many bioactive ingredients or parts, but there are still some limitations for medical field application, such as solubility and absorptivity in the human body. Nanotechnology is an effective way to enhance its bioavailability. How do we incorporate traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) with nanotechnology? This short commentary discusses the background of nanotechnology and its research progress with TCM as well as the future aspects.
Nanotechnology is the art of science manipulating matter at the nanoscale about 1 to 100 nanometers, 10-9 nm ranging from a sheet of paper (100,000 nanometers thick) to a human hair (around 80,000- 100,000 nanometers). This is the study of small microscopic things such as nanomaterials including carbon-based, dendrimers, composites, and metal-based . “Top-down” and “Bottom-up” are the nanoscale approaches for making nanomaterials (Table 1).
|Create smaller objects using larger objects||Arrange smaller components into more complex|
|Use principles of molecular recognition||Self-assembly|
Table 1: Nanoscale approaches .
Traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) such as licorice, curcumin, celastrol, and astragalus have bioactive ingredients, bioactive parts, medicinal materials, or complex prescriptions which have lower solubility and bioavailability, especially in the absorption of a human body. These are processed by nanotechnology to reduce the adverse effects of TCM, achieve sustained release, attain targeted delivery, enhance pharmacological effects and improve the administration route of TCM .
Growing evidence has shown that nanotechnology was effective on the TCM to improve its bioavailability. Wu et al. reported an FA-Zein (core) combined with pectin (shell) to promote the bioavailability of glycyrrhizic acid (GA) on licorice and the anti-inflammatory effect in specific parts of the intestine . Xie et al. developed poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) nanoparticles of curcumin, “Cur-PLGA-NPs”, for studying the effect and mechanisms on the oral bioavailability of curcumin. The relative bioavailability was 5.6-fold with a longer half-life compared to the native curcumin after oral administration of CUR-PLGA-NPs .
Law et al. designed a folic acid and gold nanoparticle (AuNP) conjugated with PVP-co-2-dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate (Polymer) and celastrol which improved the water solubility of celastrol and enhanced its anticancer activities against breast cancer . Xiong et al. indicated the PEGylated PLGA nanoparticles encapsulating astragalus polysaccharides (APS) and gold nanorods (AuNRs) were constructed by a simple double emulsion method for the treatment of breast cancer which facilitated real-time imaging, promoted thermal ablation effects, and boosted FUS-induced immune effects .
Besides, nanotechnology also assists TCM in photodynamic therapy (PDT) against SARS-CoV-2 after improving its bioavailability, such as curcumin ; Curcumin-loaded nanocarriers for increasing their bioavailability and therapeutic efficiency, which is an antiviral agent for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 .
The above information demonstrates that a nanotechnology is an alternative approach for enhancing the bioavailability of bioactive ingredients for TCM. However, much more works need to be done for TCM nanotechnology, particularly in the safety assessments of the clinical trials for human.
All authors contributed to the concept, acquisition and analysis of data, drafting of the article, and critical revision for important intellectual content.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
The authors received no funding source/grants or other materials support for this study.
2. V Singh A, K Mehta K. Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up Nanoengineering Routes to Design Advanced Oropharmacological Products. Current Pharmaceutical Design. 2016 Mar 1;22(11):1534-45.
3. Huang Y, Zhao Y, Liu F, Liu S. Nano Traditional Chinese Medicine: Current Progresses and Future Challenges. Current Drug Targets. 2015 Dec 1;16(13):1548-62.
4. Wu A, Chen C, Lu J, Sun J, Xiao M, Yue X, et al. Preparation of Oral Core-Shell Zein Nanoparticles to Improve the Bioavailability of Glycyrrhizic Acid for the Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis. Biomacromolecules 2022;23(1):210-225.
5. Xie X, Tao Q, Zou Y, Zhang F, Guo M, Wang Y, et al. PLGA Nanoparticles Improve the Oral Bioavailability of Curcumin in Rats: Characterizations and Mechanisms. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2011 Sep 14;59(17):9280-9.
6. Law S, Leung AW, Xu C. Folic Acid-Modified Celastrol Nanoparticles: Synthesis, Characterization, Anticancer Activity In 2D And 3D Breast Cancer Models. Artificial Cells, Nanomedicine, And Biotechnology. 2020 Jan 1;48(1):542-59.
7. Xiong J, Jiang B, Luo Y, Zou J, Gao X, Xu D, et al. Multifunctional Nanoparticles Encapsulating Astragalus Polysaccharide and Gold Nanorods in Combination with Focused Ultrasound for The Treatment of Breast Cancer. International Journal of Nanomedicine. 2020;15:4151-69.
8. Law S, Leung AW, Xu C. Could Nanotechnology Assist Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) Against SARS-Cov-2? Photodiagnosis And Photodynamic Therapy. 2021 Dec 1; 36:102543.
9. Dourado D, Freire DT, Pereira DT, Amaral-Machado L, Alencar ÉN, de Barros AL, et al. Will Curcumin Nanosystems Be the Next Promising Antiviral Alternatives in COVID-19 Treatment Trials? Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2021 Jul 1; 139:111578.