The objective of this investigation was to develop a thermosensitive vaginal gel containing raltegravir+efavirenz loaded PLGA nanoparticles (RAL+EFV-NPs) for pre-exposure prophylaxis of HIV. RAL+EFV-NPs were fabricated using a modified emulsion-solvent evaporation method and characterized for size and zeta potential. The average size and surface charge of RAL+EFV-NP were 81.8±6.4 nm and -23.18±7.18 mV respectively. The average encapsulation efficiency of raltegravir and efavirenz was 55.5% and 98.2% respectively. Thermosensitive vaginal gel containing RAL+EFV-NPs was successfully prepared using a combination of Pluronic F127 (20% w/v) and Pluronic F68 (1% w/v). Incorporation RAL+EFV-NPs in the gel did not result in nanoparticle aggregation and RAL+EFV-NPs containing gel showed thermogelation at 32.5°C. The RAL+EFV-NPs were evaluated for inhibition of HIV-1(NL4-3) using TZM-bl indicator cells. The EC(90) of RAL+EFV-NPs was lower than raltegravir+efavirenz (RAL+EFV) solution but did not reach significance. Compared to control HeLa cells without any treatment, RAL+EFV-NPs or blank gel were not cytotoxic for 14 days in vitro. The intracellular levels of efavirenz in RAL+EFV-NPs treated HeLa cells were above the EC(90) for 14 days whereas raltegravir intracellular concentrations were eliminated within 6 days. Transwell experiments of NPs-in-gel demonstrated rapid transfer of fluorescent nanoparticles from the gel and uptake in HeLa cells within 30 min. These data demonstrate the potential of antiretroviral NP-embedded vagina gels for long-term vaginal pre-exposure prophylaxis of heterosexual HIV-1 transmission.
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