Microgels with tunable affinity-controlled protein release via desolvation of self-assembled peptide nanofibers†
With a growing number of bioactive protein drugs approved for clinical use each year, there is increasing need for vehicles for localized protein delivery to reduce administered doses, prevent off-target activity, and maintain protein bioactivity. Ideal protein delivery vehicles provide high encapsulation efficiency of bioactive drug, enable fine-tuning of protein release profiles, are biocompatible, and can be administered via minimally-invasive routes. Here we developed an approach to create micron-sized hydrated gels (i.e. “microgels”) for protein delivery that fulfill these requirements via desolvation of self-assembled β-sheet peptide nanofibers. Specifically, aqueous solutions of peptide nanofibers were diluted under stirring conditions in a “desolvating agent”, such as ethanol, which is miscible with water but poorly solvates peptides. The desolvating agent induced nanofiber physical crosslinking into microgels that retained β-sheet secondary structure and were stable in aqueous solutions. Microgels did not activate dendritic cells in vitro, suggesting they are biocompatible. Peptide nanofibers and proteins having similar non-solvent immiscibility properties were co-desolvated to produce protein-loaded microgels with loading efficiencies of ∼85%. Encapsulated bioactive proteins rapidly diffused into bulk aqueous media, as expected for hydrated gels. Modifying peptide nanofibers with a protein-binding ligand provided tunable affinity-controlled protein release. Biocompatible microgels formed via desolvation of self-assembled peptide nanofibers are therefore likely to be broadly useful as vehicles for localized delivery of bioactive proteins, as well as other therapeutic molecules.
- This article is part of the themed collections: 2016 Journal of Materials Chemistry B Hot Papers and Emerging Investigators 2016: Novel design strategies for new functional materials