How do polymeric micelles cross epithelial barriers?

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Non-parenteral delivery of drugs using nanotechnology-based delivery systems is a promising non-invasive way to achieve effective local or systemic drug delivery. The efficacy of drugs administered non-parenterally is limited by their ability to cross biological barriers, and epithelial tissues particularly present challenges. Polymeric micelles can achieve transepithelial drug delivery because of their ability to be internalized into cells and/or cross epithelial barriers, thereby delivering drugs either locally or systematically following non-parenteral administration. This review discusses the particular characteristics of various epithelial barriers and assesses their potential as non-parenteral routes of delivery. The material characteristics of polymeric micelles (e.g., size, surface charge, and surface decoration) and of unimers dissociated from polymeric micelles determine their interactions (non-specific and/or specific) with mucus and epithelial cells as well as their intracellular fate. This paper outlines the mechanisms governing the major modes of internalization of polymeric micelles into epithelial cells, with an emphasis on specific recent examples of the transport of drug-loaded polymeric micelles across epithelial barriers.

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