The use of asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation with on-line detection in the study of drug retention within liposomal nanocarriers and drug transfer kinetics

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Abstract

Due to their solubilizing capabilities, liposomes (phospholipid vesicles) are suited for designing formulations for intravenous administration of drug compounds which are poorly water-soluble. Despite the good in-vitro stability of such formulations with minimal drug leakage, upon i.v. injection there is a risk of premature drug loss due to drug transfer to plasma proteins and cell membranes. Here we report on the refinement of a recently introduced simple in vitro predictive tool by Hinna and colleagues in 2014, which brings small drug loaded (donor) liposomes in contact with large acceptor liposomes, the latter serving as a model mimicking biological sinks in the body. The donor- and acceptor-liposomes were subsequently separated using asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AF4), during which the sample is exposed to a large volume of eluent which corresponds to a dilution factor of approximately 600. The model drug content in the donor- and acceptor fraction was quantified by on-line UV/VIS extinction measurements with correction for turbidity and by off-line HPLC measurements of collected fractions. The refined method allowed for (near) baseline separation of donor and acceptor vesicles as well as reliable quantification of the drug content not only of the donor- but now also of the acceptor-liposomes due to their improved size-homogeneity, colloidal stability and reduced turbidity. This improvement over the previously reported approach allowed for simultaneous quantification of both drug transfer and drug release to the aqueous phase. By sampling at specific incubation times, the release and transfer kinetics of the model compound p-THPP (5,10,15,20-tetrakis(4-hydroxyphenyl)21H,23H-porphine) was determined. p-THPP is structurally closely related to the photosensitizer temoporfin, which is in clinical use and under evaluation in liposomal formulations. The transfer of p-THPP to the acceptor vesicles followed 1st order kinetics with a half-life of approximately 300 min. As expected, equilibrium distribution between donor- and acceptor vesicles was proportional to the lipid mass ratio. An initial rapid transfer of p-THPP was found (˜5%) and investigated further by determining the extent of transfer between donor and acceptor during separation. The donor- and acceptor phase were found to be separated within few minutes and only minor (≤2%) transfer could be detected within the AF4 channel under the conditions applied for fractionation. These results demonstrates the potential of our AF4 based method as an in vitro tool to determine retention properties of lipophilic compounds within liposomal carriers in particular, but also within a variety of nano-particulate carriers provided that they exhibit a sufficient size difference compared to the applied colloidal acceptor phase.

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