Topically Applied Curcumin-Loaded Nanoparticles Treat Erectile Dysfunction in a Rat Model of Type-2 Diabetes

Andrew Draganski, Moses T. Tar, Guillermo Villegas, Joel M. Friedman, Kelvin P. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Curcumin, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compound, has shown promise in pre-clinical studies to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) associated with type-1 diabetes. However, poor bioavailability following oral administration limits its efficacy. The present study evaluated the potential of topical application of curcumin-loaded nanoparticles (curc-np) to treat ED in a rat model of type-2 diabetes (T2D). Aim: Determine if topical application of curc-np treats ED in a T2D rat model and modulates expression of inflammatory markers. Methods: Curc-np (4 mg curcumin) or blank nanoparticles were applied every 2 days for 2 weeks to the shaved abdomen of 20-week-old Zucker diabetic fatty male rats (N = 5 per group). Lean Zucker diabetic fatty male rat controls were treated with blank nanoparticles (N = 5). Penetration of nanoparticles and curcumin release were confirmed by 2-photon fluorescence microscopy and histology. Erectile function was determined by measuring intracorporal pressure (ICP) normalized to systemic blood pressure (ICP/BP) following cavernous nerve stimulation. Corporal tissue was excised and reverse transcription and quantitative polymerase chain reaction used to determine expression of the following markers: nuclear factor (NF)-κβ NF-κβ-activating protein (Nkap), NF erythroid 2-related factor-2, Kelch-like enoyl-CoA hydratase-associated protein-1, heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), variable coding sequence-A1, phosphodiesterase-5, endothelial and neuronal nitric oxide synthase, Ras homolog gene family member A, and Rho-associated coiled-coil containing protein kinases-1 and -2. Outcomes: Erectile function by determination of ICP/BP and expression of molecular markers in corporal tissue by RT-qPCR. Results: Nanoparticles penetrated the abdominal epidermis and persisted in hair follicles for 24 hours. Curc-np-treated animals exhibited higher average ICP/BP than animals treated with blank nanoparticles at all levels of stimulation and this was statistically significant (P <.05) at 0.75 mA. In corporal tissue, Nkap expression decreased 60% and heme oxygenase-1 expression increased 60% in curc-np- compared to blank nanoparticle–treated animals. ICP/BP values inversely correlated with Nkap and directly correlated with HO-1 expression levels. Clinical Translation: These studies demonstrate the potential for topical application of curc-np as a treatment for ED in T2D patients. Conclusions: The T2D animal model of ED represents a more prevalent disease than the more commonly studied type-1 diabetes model. Although there is improved erectile response in curc-np-treated animals, only at the lower levels of stimulation (0.75 mA) was this significant compared to the blank nanoparticle–treated animals, suggesting more studies are needed to optimize protocols and evaluate toxicity. Topical application of curc-np to a rat model of T2D can systemically deliver curcumin, treat ED, and modulate corporal expression of inflammatory markers. Draganski A, Tar MT, Villegas G, et al. Topically Applied Curcumin-Loaded Nanoparticles Treat Erectile Dysfunction in a Rat Model of Type-2 Diabetes. J Sex Med 2018;15:645–653.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-653
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Curcumin
  • Diabetes
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Inflammation
  • Nanoparticle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Urology


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