We have employed microfluidics (cross-shaped chip) for the preparation of drug-loaded poly(lactic acid-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) nanoparticles. The polymer precipitates from an acetone solution upon its controlled laminar mixing (flow focusing) with an aqueous solution of a surfactant, allowing for an operator-independent, up-scalable and reproducible preparative process of nanoformulations.
Firstly, using PEGylated surfactants we have compared batch and microfluidic processes, and showed the superior reproducibility of the latter and its strong dependency on the acetone/water ratio (flow rate ratio). We have then focused on the issue of purification from free surfactant, and employed advanced characterization techniques such as flow-through dynamic light scattering as the in-line quality control technique, and field flow fractionation (FFF) with dynamic and static light scattering detection, which allowed the detection of surfactant micelles in mixture with nanoparticles (hardly possible with stand-alone dynamic light scattering). Finally, we have shown that the choice of polymer and surfactant affects the release behaviour of a model drug (paclitaxel), with high molecular weight PLGA (RG756) and low molecular weight surfactant (tocopheryl poly(ethylene glycol) 1000 succinate, TPGS) apparently showing higher burst and accelerated release.