Herein, we assessed the effect of Ferulic Acid (FA), a natural antioxidant with anti-cancer effect, on the human glioblastoma cells through molecular and Delayed Luminescence (DL) studies. DL, a phenomenon of ultra-week emission of optical photons, was used to monitor mitochondrial assessment. The effect of FA loaded in nanostructured lipid carriers (NLCs) was also assessed. To validate NLCs as a drug delivery system for glioblastoma treatment, particular attention was focused on their effect. We found that free FA induced a significant decrease in c-Myc and Bcl-2 expression levels accompanied by the apoptotic pathway activation. Blank NLCs, even if they did not induce cytotoxicity and caspase-3 cleavage, decreased Bcl-2, ERK1/2, c-Myc expression levels activating PARP-1 cleavage. The changes in DL intensity and kinetics highlighted a possible effect of nanoparticle matrix on mitochondria, through the involvement of the NADH pool and ROS production that, in turn, activates ERK1/2 pathways. All the effects on protein expression levels and on the activation of apoptotic pathway appeared more evident when the cells were exposed to FA loaded in NLCs. We demonstrated that the observed effects are due to a synergic pro-apoptotic influence exerted by FA, whose bio-availability increases in the glioblastoma cells, and NLCs formulation.
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