Microspheres based on methacrylated dextran (dex-MA), dextran derivatized with lactate-hydroxyethyl methacrylate (dex-lactate-HEMA) or derivatized with HEMA (dex-HEMA) were prepared. The microspheres were injected subcutaneously in rats and the effect of the particle size and network characteristics [initial water content and degree of methacrylate substitution (DS)] on the tissue reaction was investigated for 6 weeks. As a control, poly(lactic-co-glycolic)acid (PLGA) microspheres with varying sizes (unsized, smaller than 10 microm, smaller and larger than 20 microm) were injected as well. A mild tissue reaction to the PLGA microspheres was observed, characterized by infiltration of macrophages (MØs) and some granulocytes. Six weeks postinjection, the PLGA microspheres were still present. However, their size was decreased indicating degradation and many spheres had been phagocytosed. The tissue reaction was hardly affected by size differences, except for particles smaller than 10 microm, which induced an extensive tissue reaction. The initial tissue reaction to nondegradable dex-MA microspheres was stronger than towards the PLGA microspheres, but at day 10 the tissue reactions were comparable for both groups. Six weeks postinjection, the dex-MA microspheres were completely phagocytosed, and no signs of degradation were observed. The size and initial water content of dex-MA microspheres hardly affected the tissue response, although less granulocytes were observed for microspheres with higher DS. Slowly degrading dextran microspheres composed of dex-(lactate(1)-)HEMA induced a tissue reaction comparable to the PLGA microspheres. However, degradation of the dex-(lactate(1,3)-)HEMA microspheres was associated with an increased number of MØ's and giant cells, both phagocytosing the microspheres and their degradation products. Similar to PLGA, no adverse reactions were observed for the nondegradable dex-MA and degradable dextran microspheres. This study shows that both nondegradable and degradable dextran-based microspheres are well tolerated after subcutaneous injection in rats, which make them interesting candidates as controlled drug delivery systems.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res 56: 600--609, 2001