Intrinsic lipolysis rate for systematic design of lipid-based formulations

Drug Deliv Transl Res. 2023 May;13(5):1288-1304. doi: 10.1007/s13346-022-01246-y. Epub 2022 Oct 8.


Lipid-based formulations (LBFs) are used by the pharmaceutical industry in oral delivery systems for both poorly water-soluble drugs and biologics. Digestibility is key for the performance of LBFs and in vitro lipolysis is commonly used to compare the digestibility of LBFs. Results from in vitro lipolysis experiments depend highly on the experimental conditions and formulation characteristics, such as droplet size (which defines the surface area available for digestion) and interfacial structure. This study introduced the intrinsic lipolysis rate (ILR) as a surface area-independent approach to compare lipid digestibility. Pure acylglycerol nanoemulsions, stabilized with polysorbate 80 at low concentration, were formulated and digested according to a standardized pH-stat lipolysis protocol. A methodology originally developed to calculate the intrinsic dissolution rate of poorly water-soluble drugs was adapted for the rapid calculation of ILR from lipolysis data. The impact of surfactant concentration on the apparent lipolysis rate and lipid structure on ILR was systematically investigated. The surfactant polysorbate 80 inhibited lipolysis of tricaprylin nanoemulsions in a concentration-dependent manner. Coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations supported these experimental observations. In the absence of bile and phospholipids, tricaprylin was shielded from lipase at 0.25% polysorbate 80. In contrast, the inclusion of bile salt and phospholipid increased the surfactant-free area and improved the colloidal presentation of the lipids to the enzyme, especially at 0.125% polysorbate 80. At a constant and low surfactant content, acylglycerol digestibility increased with decreasing acyl chain length, decreased esterification, and increasing unsaturation. The calculated ILR of pure acylglycerols was successfully used to accurately predict the IRL of binary lipid mixtures. The ILR measurements hold great promise as an efficient method supporting pharmaceutical formulation scientists in the design of LBFs with specific digestion profiles.

Keywords: Drug development; Lipid digestion; Lipid-based formulations; Lipolysis; Molecular dynamics simulations; Nanoemulsion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Glycerides
  • Lipids* / chemistry
  • Lipolysis*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Polysorbates / chemistry
  • Solubility
  • Surface-Active Agents / chemistry
  • Water


  • Lipids
  • tricaprylin
  • Polysorbates
  • Glycerides
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Water