Biodegradable and injectable in situ thermosensitive hydrogels were investigated for sustained delivery of pro- tein therapeutics in the treatment of ocular posterior segment neovascular diseases. A series of triblock (TB, polycaprolac- tone-polyethylene glycol-polycaprolactone (PCL-PEG-PCL), B-A-B) and pentablock copolymers (PBCs) (polylactic acid (PLA)-PCL-PEG-PCL-PLA (C-B-A-B-C) and PEG-PCL-PLA-PCL-PEG (A-B-C-B-A)) were synthesized and evaluated for their thermosensitive behavior. Effects of molecular weight, hydr ophobicity and block arrangement on polymer crys- tallinity, sol-gel transition, micelle size, viscosity and in vitro drug release were examined. Results from sol-gel transition studies demonstrated that aqueous solutions of block copolymers can immediately transform to hydrogel upon exposure to physiological temperature. PBC provide significantly longer sustained release (more than 20 days) of IgG relative to TB copolymers. Moreover, kinematic viscosity of aqueous solution at 25°C for A-B-C-B-A type of PBCs was noticeably lower than the TB (B-A-B) copolymers and other PBCs with C-B-A-B-C block arrangements suggesting desired syringe- ability. The presence of PLA blocks in PBCs (C-B-A-B-C and A-B-C-B-A) significantly reduces crystallinity. Hence, it is anticipated that PBCs will have a faster rate of degradation relative to PCL-PEG-PCL based TB c opolyme rs. PBCs also exhibited excellent cell viability and biocompatibility on ARPE-19 (human retinal pigment epithelial cell line) and RAW- 264.7 (mouse macrophage cells), likely rendering it safe for ocular applications. Owing to biodegradability, thermosensi- tivity, ease of handling and biocompatibility PBC hydrogels can be considered as promising biomaterial for sustained de- livery of protein therapeutics to the back of the eye.
Keywords: Block copolymers, controlled drug delivery, in situ gelling system, intravitreal, ocular delivery, pentablock co-polymers, posterior segment, sol-gel transition, sustained drug delivery, thermosensitive gel.