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Solubilisation and controlled release of a model hydrophobic drug using novel micelle-forming ABC triblock copolymers

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 21:16 authored by Yiqing Tang, Shiyong Y Liu, Steven P Armes, Norman C Billingham
Amphiphilic ABC triblock copolymers composed of monomethoxy-capped poly(ethylene glycol) (MPEG), poly(2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate) (DMA), and poly(2-(diethylamino)ethyl methacrylate) (DEA) have been synthesized by atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). These copolymers dissolve molecularly in acidic aqueous media at room temperature due to protonation of the tertiary amine groups on the DMA and DEA residues. On adjusting the pH with base, micellization occurred at pH 8, with the water-insoluble, deprotonated DEA block forming the hydrophobic cores and the MPEG and DMA blocks forming the hydrophilic micellar coronas and inner shells, respectively. This pH-induced micellization has been exploited to develop a solvent-free protocol for drug loading. A model hydrophobic drug, dipyridamole (DIP), which dissolves in acid but is insoluble above pH 5.8, was incorporated into the micelles by increasing the pH of an aqueous drug/copolymer mixture to 9. Both the empty and the drug-loaded micelles were characterized by dynamic light scattering and fluorescence studies. The interaction of both pyrene and DIP with the MPEG-DMA-DEA micelles was studied by fluorescence; both compounds had relatively high partition coefficients into the micelles, 4.5 × 105 and 1.5 × 104, respectively. Intensity-average micelle diameters ranged from 20 to 90 nm, depending on the polymer composition and concentration. Shorter MPEG blocks (Mn = 2000) produced larger micelles than longer MPEG blocks (Mn = 5000) due to the shift in the hydrophilic-hydrophobic balance of the copolymer. Transmission electron microscopy studies of the drug-loaded micelles indicated spherical morphologies and reasonably uniform particle size distributions, which is in marked contrast to the needlelike morphology observed for pure DIP in the absence of the copolymer. Experiments on controlled release demonstrated that DIP-loaded MPEG-DMA-DEA micelles act as a drug carrier, giving slow release to the surrounding solution over a period of days. Rapid release can be triggered by reducing the pH to reverse the micellization.


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Work funded by an EPSRC grant to NCB. A study of the application of ABC triblock copolymer micelles in diffusion-controlled drug delivery. The work has been cited 39 times and led to collaborations with Pharmacy at Brighton to develop new micellar drug delivery systems.

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