Microstructural distinction of electrospun nanofibrous drug delivery systems formulated with different excipients

The electrospun nanofiber-based orally dissolving webs are promising candidates for rapid drug release, which is due to the high surface area to volume ratio of the fibers and the high amorphization efficacy of the fiber formation process. Although latter is responsible for the physical and/or chemical instability of these systems. The primary aim of the present study was to elucidate how the addition of polysorbate 80 (PS80) and hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HP-β-CD) influenced the electrospinning process, the properties and behavior of the obtained nanofibers.


In order to reveal any subtle changes attributable to the applied excipients the prepared samples were subjected to several state of the art imaging and solid state characterization techniques at both macroscopic and microscopic levels. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) revealed the viscoelastic nature of the fibrous samples. At relatively low forces mostly elastic deformation was observed, whilst at higher loads plasticity predominated. The use of polysorbate led to about two times stiffer, less plastic fibers than the addition of cyclodextrin. The 1H-13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) cross-polarization build-up curves pointed out that cyclodextrin acts as an inner, while polysorbate acts as an outer plasticizer and due to its “liquid-like” behavior can migrate in the polymer-matrix, which resulting in the less plastic behavior of this formulation. Positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS) measurements also confirmed the enhanced mobility of the polysorbate and the molecular packing enhancer properties of the cyclodextrin.


Solid-state methods suggested amorphous precipitation of the active ingredient in the course of the electrospinning process; furthermore the nature of the amorphous systems was verified by NMR spectroscopy, which revealed that the use of the examined additives enabled the development of a molecularly dispersed systems of different homogeneities. An accelerated stability study was carried out to track physical state related changes of the incorporated drug and the polymeric carrier.


Recrystallization of the active ingredient could not be observed, which indicated a large stress tolerance capacity, but time dependent microstructural changes were seen in the presence of polysorbate. Raman mapping verified homogeneous drug distribution in the nanofibrous orally dissolving webs. The performed dissolution study indicated that the drug dissolution from the fibers was rapid and complete, but the formed stronger interaction in case of the PVA-CD-MH system resulted in a little bit slower drug release, compared to the PS80 containing formulation.


The results obviously show that the complex physicochemical characterization of the polymer-based fibrous delivery systems is of great impact, since it enables the better understanding of material properties including the supramolecular interactions of multicomponent systems and consequently the rational design of drug-loaded nanocarriers of required stability.