In vitro and in vivo testing of a novel local nicardipine delivery system to the brain: a preclinical study

J Neurosurg. 2019 Jan 25;132(2):465-472. doi: 10.3171/2018.9.JNS173085.


Objective: The management of patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH) remains a highly demanding challenge in critical care medicine. Despite all efforts, the calcium channel antagonist nimodipine remains the only drug approved for improving outcomes after aSAH. However, in its current form of application, it provides less than optimal efficacy and causes dose-limiting hypotension in a substantial number of patients. Here, the authors tested in vitro the release dynamics of a novel formulation of the calcium channel blocker nicardipine and in vivo local tolerance and tissue reaction using a chronic cranial window model in mice.

Methods: To characterize the release kinetics in vitro, dissolution experiments were performed using artificial cerebrospinal fluid over a time period of 21 days. The excipients used in this formulation (NicaPlant) for sustained nicardipine release are a mixture of two completely degradable polymers. A chronic cranial window in C57BL/6 mice was prepared, and NicaPlant slices were placed in proximity to the exposed cerebral vasculature. Epifluorescence video microscopy was performed right after implantation and on days 3 and 7 after surgery. Vessel diameter of the arteries and veins, vessel permeability, vessel configuration, and leukocyte-endothelial cell interaction were quantified by computer-assisted analysis. Immunofluorescence staining was performed to analyze inflammatory reactions and neuronal alterations.

Results: In vitro the nicardipine release profile showed an almost linear curve with about 80% release at day 15 and full release at day 21. In vivo epifluorescence video microscopy showed a significantly higher arterial vessel diameter in the NicaPlant group due to vessel dilatation (21.6 ± 2.6 µm vs 17.8 ± 1.5 µm in controls, p < 0.01) confirming vasoactivity of the implant, whereas the venous diameter was not affected. Vessel dilatation did not have any influence on the vessel permeability measured by contrast extravasation of the fluorescent dye in epifluorescence microscopy. Further, an increased leukocyte-endothelial cell interaction due to the implant could not be detected. Histological analysis did not show any microglial activation or accumulation. No structural neuronal changes were observed.

Conclusions: NicaPlant provides continuous in vitro release of nicardipine over a 3-week observation period. In vivo testing confirmed vasoactivity and lack of toxicity. The local application of this novel nicardipine delivery system to the subarachnoid space is a promising tool to improve patient outcomes while avoiding systemic side effects.

Keywords: EVD = external ventricular drain; FITC = fluorescein isothiocyanate; IEFVM = intravital epi-illumination fluorescence video microscopy; NPRI = nicardipine prolonged-release implant; PBS = phosphate-buffered saline; PLGA = poly(d,l-lactide-co-glycolide) 50:50; aCSF = artificial cerebrospinal fluid; aSAH = aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage; cGMP = current good manufacturing practice; calcium channel antagonist; cranial window; local application; nicardipine; subarachnoid hemorrhage; vascular disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / administration & dosage*
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / metabolism
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Drug Implants
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nicardipine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicardipine / metabolism
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / drug therapy*
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / metabolism


  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Drug Implants
  • Nicardipine