pH-sensitive micelles for targeted drug delivery prepared using a novel membrane contactor method

A novel membrane contactor method was used to produce size-controlled poly(ethylene glycol)-b-polycaprolactone (PEG-PCL) copolymer micelles composed of diblock copolymers with different average molecular weights, Mn (9200 or 10 400 Da) and hydrophilic fractions, f (0.67 or 0.59). By injecting 570 L m–2 h–1 of the organic phase (a 1 mg mL–1 solution of PEG-PCL in tetrahydrofuran) through a microengineered nickel membrane with a hexagonal pore array and 200 μm pore spacing into deionized water agitated at 700 rpm, the micelle size linearly increased from 92 nm for a 5-μm pore size to 165 nm for a 40-μm pore size. The micelle size was finely tuned by the agitation rate, transmembrane flux and aqueous to organic phase ratio. An encapsulation efficiency of 89% and a drug loading of 75% (w/w) were achieved when a hydrophobic drug (vitamin E) was entrapped within the micelles, as determined by ultracentrifugation method. The drug-loaded micelles had a mean size of 146 ± 7 nm, a polydispersity index of 0.09 ± 0.01, and a ζ potential of −19.5 ± 0.2 mV. When drug-loaded micelles where stored for 50 h, a pH sensitive drug release was achieved and a maximum amount of vitamin E (23%) was released at the pH of 1.9. When a pH-sensitive hydrazone bond was incorporated between PEG and PCL blocks, no significant change in micelle size was observed at the same micellization conditions.