Tunable diblock copolypeptide hydrogel depots for local delivery of hydrophobic molecules in healthy and injured central nervous system.
Zhang S, Anderson MA, Ao Y, Khakh BS, Fan J, Deming TJ, Sofroniew MV
Many hydrophobic small molecules are available to regulate gene expression and other cellular functions. Locally restricted application of such molecules in the central nervous system (CNS) would be desirable in many experimental and therapeutic settings, but is limited by a lack of innocuous vehicles able to load and easily deliver hydrophobic cargo. Here, we tested the potential for diblock copolypeptide hydrogels (DCH) to serve as such vehicles. In vitro tests on loading and release were conducted with cholesterol and the anti-cancer agent, temozolomide (TMZ). Loading of hydrophobic cargo modified DCH physical properties such as stiffness and viscosity, but these could readily be tuned to desired ranges by modifying DCH concentration, amino acid composition or chain lengths. Different DCH formulations exhibited different loading capacities and different rates of release. For example, comparison of different DCH with increasing alanine contents showed corresponding increases in both cargo loading capacity and time for cargo release. In vivo tests were conducted with tamoxifen, a small synthetic hydrophobic molecule widely used to regulate transgene expression. Tamoxifen released from DCH depots injected into healthy or injured CNS efficiently activated reporter gene expression in a locally restricted manner in transgenic mice. These findings demonstrate the facile and predictable tunability of DCH to achieve a wide range of loading capacities and release profiles of hydrophobic cargos while retaining CNS compatible physical properties. In addition, the findings show that DCH depots injected into the CNS can efficiently deliver small hydrophobic molecules that regulate gene expression in local cells.