Physical crosslinking modulates sustained drug release from recombinant silk-elastinlike protein polymer for ophthalmic applications

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We evaluated the drug release capability of optically transparent recombinant silk-elastinlike protein polymer, SELP-47K, films to sustainably deliver the common ocular antibiotic, ciprofloxacin. The ciprofloxacin release kinetics from drug-loaded SELP-47K films treated with ethanol or methanol vapor to induce different densities of physical crosslinking was investigated. Additionally, the drug-loaded protein films were embedded in a protein polymer coating to further prolong the release of the drug. Drug-loaded SELP-47K films released ciprofloxacin for up to 132 h with near first-order release kinetics. Polymer coating of drug-loaded films prolonged drug release for up to 220 h. The antimicrobial activity of ciprofloxacin released from the drug delivery matrices was not impaired by the film casting process or the ethanol or methanol treatments. The mechanism of drug release was elucidated by analyzing the physical properties of the film specimens, including equilibrium swelling, soluble fraction, surface roughness and hydrophobicity. Additionally, the conformation of the SELP-47K and its physical crosslinks in the films was analyzed by FTIR and Raman spectroscopy. A three-parameter physics based model accurately described the release rates observed for the various film and coating treatments and attributed the effects to the degree of physical crosslinking of the films and to an increasing affinity of the drug with the polymer network. Together, these results indicate that optically transparent silk-elastinlike protein films may be attractive material candidates for novel ophthalmic drug delivery devices.

Graphical abstract

Optically transparent recombinant silk-elastinlike protein polymer SELP-47K films sustainably release the common ocular antibiotics, ciprofloxacin.

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