The first-generation platforms for vascular drug delivery adopted spherical morphologies. These carriers relied primarily on the size dependence of the enhanced permeability and retention effect to passively target vasculature, resulting in inefficient delivery due to significant variation in endothelial permeability. Enhanced delivery typically requires active targeting via receptor-mediated endocytosis by surface conjugation of targeting ligands. However, vascular carriers (VCs) still face numerous challenges en route to reaching their targets before delivery. The control of carrier shape offers opportunities to overcome in vivo barriers and enhance vascular drug delivery. Geometric features influence the ability of carrier particles to navigate physiological flow patterns, evade biological clearance mechanisms, sustain circulation, adhere to the vascular surface, and finally transport across or internalize into the endothelium. Although previous formulation strategies limited the fabrication of nonspherical carriers, numerous recent advances in both top-down and bottom-up fabrication techniques have enabled shape modulation as a key design element. As part of a series on vascular drug delivery, this review focuses on recent developments in novel vascular platforms with controlled geometry that enhance or modulate delivery functions. Starting with an overview of controlled geometry platforms, we review their shape-dependent functional characteristics for each stage of their vascular journey in vivo. We sequentially explore carrier geometries that evade reticuloendothelial system uptake, display enhanced circulation persistence and margination dynamics in flow, encourage adhesion to the vascular surface or extravasation through endothelium, and impact extravascular transport and cell internalization. The eventual biodistribution of VCs results from the culmination of their successive navigation of all these barriers and is profoundly influenced by their morphology. To enhance delivery efficacy, carrier designs synergistically combining controlled geometry with standard drug delivery strategies such as targeting moieties, surface decorations, and bulk material properties are discussed. Finally, we speculate on possibilities for innovation, harnessing shape as a design parameter for the next generation of vascular drug delivery platforms.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.