Modulating the Thermoresponse of Polymer-Protein Conjugates with Hydrogels for Controlled Release

Polymers (Basel). 2021 Aug 18;13(16):2772. doi: 10.3390/polym13162772.


Sustained release is being explored to increase plasma and tissue residence times of polymer-protein therapeutics for improved efficacy. Recently, poly(oligo(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate) (PEGMA) polymers have been established as potential PEG alternatives to further decrease immunogenicity and introduce responsive or sieving properties. We developed a drug delivery system that locally depresses the lower critical solution temperature (LCST) of PEGMA-protein conjugates within zwitterionic hydrogels for controlled release. Inside the hydrogel the conjugates partially aggregate through PEGMA-PEGMA chain interactions to limit their release rates, whereas conjugates outside of the hydrogel are completely solubilized. Release can therefore be tuned by altering hydrogel components and the PEGMA's temperature sensitivity without the need for traditional controlled release mechanisms such as particle encapsulation or affinity interactions. Combining local LCST depression technology and degradable zwitterionic hydrogels, complete release of the conjugate was achieved over 13 days.

Keywords: controlled release; hydrogels; polymer-protein conjugates; temperature-sensitive polymers; thermoresponsive.