With the advent of highly potent and cytotoxic drugs, it is increasingly critical that they be targeted and released only in cells of diseased tissues, while sparing physiologically normal neighbors. Simple ligand-based targeting of drug carriers, although promising, cannot always provide the required specificity to achieve this since often normal cells also express significant levels of the targeted receptors. Therefore, stimuli-responsive delivery systems are being explored to allow drug release from nano- and microcarriers and implantable devices, primarily in the presence of physiological or disease-specific pathophysiological signals. Designing smart biomaterials that respond to temperature or pH changes, protein and ligand binding, disease-specific degradation, e.g. enzymatic cleavage, has become an integral part of this approach. These strategies are used in combination with nano- and microparticle systems to improve delivery efficiency through several routes of administration, and with injectable or implantable systems for long term controlled release. This review focuses on recent developments in stimuli-responsive systems, their physicochemical properties, release profiles, efficacy, safety and biocompatibility, as well as future perspectives.
Keywords: Drug delivery, hydrogels, nanoparticles, microparticles, stimuli-responsive, triggered release, siRNA, biomolecules, apoptosis, physicochemical changes
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