Thiolated polymers are a promising new group of excipients, but their stability against atmospheric oxidation has not been investigated in detail, and only a few efforts have been made to improve their stability. The oxidation of the thiol groups in solutions of thiolated polymers may result in a decrease of mucoadhesion and unpredictable in situ gelation. The aims of our work were to study the stability of aqueous solutions of thiolated polymers and the effects of stabilizing agents.
We investigated thiolated poly(aspartic acid) polymers stabilized with dithiothreitol, glutathione or acetylcysteine. The effects of these antioxidants on the gel structure, mucoadhesion and drug release were determined by means of scanning electron microscopy, swelling, rheology, adhesion and drug release tests. It was concluded that the stability of polymer solutions containing antioxidants is sufficient for one day. Polymers stabilized with dithiotreitol demonstrated fast swelling and drug release, but weaker mucoadhesion as compared with the other samples. Polymers stabilized with glutathione displayed the weakest cohesive properties, resulting in fast and uncontrolled drug release and moderate mucoadhesion. Acetylcysteine-stabilized polymers exhibited an optimum cross-linked structure, with free thiol groups ensuring polymer-mucin interactions, resulting in the best mucoadhesive properties.