The use of mucus permeating drug carrier systems being able to overcome the mucus barrier can lead to a remarkable enhancement in bioavailability. One promising approach is the design of mucolytic enzyme decorated carrier systems (MECS). These systems include micro- and nanoparticles as well as self-emulsifying drug delivery systems (SEDDS) decorated with mucin cleaving enzymes such as papain (PAP) or bromelain (BRO). MECS are able to cross the mucus barrier in a comparatively efficient manner by cleaving mucus substructures in front of them on their way to the epithelium. Thereby these enzymes hydrolyze peptide bonds of mucus glycoproteins forming tiny holes or passages through the mucus. In various in vitro and in vivo studies MECS proved to be superior in their mucus permeating properties over nanocarriers without enzyme decoration. PAP decorated nanoparticles, for instance, remained 3 h after oral administration to an even 2.5-fold higher extend in rat small intestine than the corresponding undecorated nanoparticles permeating the intestinal mucus gel layer to a much lower degree. As MECS break up the mucus network only locally without destroying its overall protective barrier function, even long term treatments with such systems seem feasible.
Within this review article we address different drug carrier systems decorated with various types of enzymes, their particular pros and cons and potential applications.