Combined therapy is a global strategy developed to prevent drug resistance in cancer and infectious diseases. In this field, there is a need of multifunctional drug delivery systems able to co-encapsulate small drug molecules, peptides, proteins, associated to targeting functions, nanoparticles. Silylated hydrogels are alkoxysilane hybrid polymers that can be engaged in a sol−gel process, providing chemical cross linking in physiological conditions, and functionalized biocompatible hybrid materials.
In the present work, microgels were prepared with silylated (hydroxypropyl)methyl cellulose (Si-HPMC) that was chemically cross linked in soft conditions of pH and temperature. They were prepared by an emulsion templating process, water in oil (W/O), as microreactors where the condensation reaction took place.
The ability to functionalize the microgels, so-called FMGs, in a one-pot process, was evaluated by grafting a silylated hydrophilic model drug, fluorescein (Si-Fluor), using the same reaction of condensation. Biphasic microgels (BPMGs) were prepared to evaluate their potential to encapsulate lipophilic model drug (Nile red). They were composed of two separate compartments, one oily phase (sesame oil) trapped in the cross linked Si-HPMC hydrophilic phase.
The FMGs and BPMGs were characterized by different microscopic techniques (optic, epi-fluorescence, Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy and scanning electronic microscopy), the mechanical properties were monitored using nano indentation by Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), and different preliminary tests were performed to evaluate their chemical and physical stability.
Finally, it was demonstrated that it is possible to co-encapsulate both hydrophilic and hydrophobic drugs, in silylated microgels, that were physically and chemically stable. They were obtained by chemical cross linking in soft conditions, and without surfactant addition during the emulsification process. The amount of drug loaded was in favor of further biological activity. Mechanical stimulations should be necessary to trigger drug release.