Porous silica particles are emerging as complementary systems to polyester microspheres for the encapsulation and controlled delivery of small-organic drugs. Their recent application in pharmaceutics is strengthened by well-established characterization and synthetic routes from the chemical engineering sciences. Silica is an interesting scaffold material for the encapsulation of organic molecules. It can be formed into hierarchical structures over a wide range of length scales and interconnectivities. Encapsulation can therefore be tailored not only to the drug but the desired release properties. In addition to surfactant-templating of hierarchical silica structures, polypeptides from marine organisms may offer biological routes to novel silica materials. Silica sol-gels have also been evaluated as delivery vehicles, particularly with regard to generating hybrid systems with mesoporous silica or composite xerogels. This review will first focus on the detailed characterisation of pore size and structure of mesoporous silica with regards water penetration and drug diffusion. We then describe the pharmaceutical applications of silica materials with regard to improving oral bioavailability, multiparticulate systems for gastroretention or sustained release, composite xerogels and in vivo biocompatibility.
Keywords: Mesoporous silica, pore size, xerogels, dissolution, drug release, passive targeting, biosilica
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