Development and optimization of a doxorubicin loaded poly(lactic acid) contrast agent for ultrasound directed drug delivery

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An echogenic, intravenous drug delivery platform is proposed in which an encapsulated chemotherapeutic can travel to a desired location and drug delivery can be triggered using external, focused ultrasound at the area of interest. Three methods of loading poly(lactic acid) (PLA) shelled ultrasound contrast agents (UCA) with doxorubicin are presented. Effects on encapsulation efficiency, in vitro enhancement, stability, particle size, morphology and release during UCA rupture are compared by loading method and drug concentration. An agent containing doxorubicin within the shell was selected as an ideal candidate for future hepatocellular carcinoma studies. The agent achieved a maximal drug load of 6.2 mg Dox/g PLA with an encapsulation efficiency of 20.5%, showed a smooth surface morphology and tight size distribution (poly dispersity index = 0.309) with a peak size of 1865 nm. Acoustically, the agent provided 19 dB of enhancement in vitro at a dosage of 10 μg/ml, with a half life of over 15 min. In vivo, the agent provided ultrasound enhancement of 13.4 ± 1.6 dB within the ascending aorta of New Zealand rabbits at a dose of 0.15 ml/kg. While the drug-incorporated agent is thought to be well suited for future drug delivery experiments, this study has shown that agent properties can be tailored for specific applications based on choice of drug loading method.Graphical abstractDrug loaded, echogenic ultrasound contrast agents have been developed and optimized. Doxorubicin was successfully loaded onto poly-L-lactide capsules with preservation of their echogenicity, enabling monitored delivery of chemotherapeutics to tumors.

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