Triterpenes from the outer bark of birch (TE) are known for various pharmacological effects including enhanced wound healing. Apart from an already authorized oleogel, electrospun nanofiber mats containing these triterpenes in a polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) matrix appear to be an advantageous application form. The effects of PVA molecular weight and concentration on the fiber morphology have been investigated. Three different molecular weights of PVA ranging from 67 to 186 kDa were used. The concentration of PVA was varied from 5 to 20 wt%. Polymer solutions were blended with colloidal dispersions of birch bark extract at a weight ratio of 60:40 (wt.%). The estimated viscosity of polymer solutions was directly linked to their concentration and molecular weight. In addition, both pure and blended solutions showed viscoelastic properties with a dominant viscous response in the bulk. Fiber morphology was confirmed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Both polymer concentration and molecular weight were found to be significant factors affecting the diameter of the fibers. Fiber diameter increased with a higher molecular weight and polymer concentration as more uniform fibers were obtained using PVA of higher molecular weight (146-186 kDa). In vitro drug release and ex vivo permeation studies indicated a faster drug release of betulin from electrospun scaffolds with lower PVA molecular weight. Our research suggests that the fabricated TE-loaded PVA electrospun dressings represent potential delivery systems of TE for wound care applications.
Keywords: PVA; birch bark extract; electrospinning; molecular weight; wound dressing.