Stabilising cubosomes with Tween 80 as a step towards targeting lipid nanocarriers to the blood-brain barrier

Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2016 Jul;104:148-55. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpb.2016.05.001. Epub 2016 May 7.


Coating nanoparticles with the surfactant Tween 80 have been previously shown to enhance drug delivery across the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The aim of this study was to investigate whether Tween 80 could be used to stabilise phytantriol-based cubosomes thereby enabling potential application in delivering macromolecular therapeutics to the brain. Cubosome particles with their large internal and external surface area by virtue of their nanostructure are ideal for delivery of macromolecules. Phase behaviour studies were conducted using a combination of optical microscopy and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and the addition of Tween 80 to mixtures of phytantriol and water resulted in a rich array of lyotropic mesophases. In particular, a large cubic phase region and a two-phase region of readily dispersed cubosomes is observed. Cubosomes with different concentrations of Tween 80 and phytantriol as the liquid crystal forming lipid were prepared using the solvent precursor method and their physical properties were investigated. A combination of dynamic light scattering, cryogenic electron tomography and SAXS shows formation of well-defined cubosomes with a narrow size distribution and the Im3m cubic structure. Collectively, the results confirm that Tween 80 can effectively stabilize phytantriol cubosomes, opening the possibility for future application in drug delivery across the BBB. Moreover, well-defined, homogenous cubosome formulations prepared using the mild solvent precursor dilution method has significant implications for large-scale production of cubosomes, which currently is a major barrier to the application of cubosomes in the clinic.

Keywords: Blood–brain barrier; Cryogenic electron tomography (cryo-ET); Cubosomes; Phytantriol; Pluronic F127; Tween 80.

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Drug Carriers*
  • Lipids / chemistry*
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Polysorbates / chemistry*


  • Drug Carriers
  • Lipids
  • Polysorbates