Development of Depot Forming Elastin-Like Polypeptide-Curcumin Drug Conjugates for Sustained Drug Delivery to Treat Neuroinflammatory Pathologies
Neuroinflammation associated with lumbar radiculopathy and peripheral nerve injury is characterized by locally increased levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα). Systemic administration of TNF antagonists for radiculopathy in the clinic has shown mixed results, and there is growing interest in local delivery of anti-inflammatory drugs to treat this pathology, as well as similar inflammatory events of peripheral nerve injury. Curcumin, a known antagonist of TNFα in multiple cell types and tissues, was chemically modified and conjugated to a thermally responsive elastin-like polypeptide (ELP) to create an injectable depot for sustained, local delivery of curcumin to treat neuroinflammation.
ELPs are biopolymers capable of thermally-triggered in situ depot formation and have been successfully employed as drug carriers and biomaterials in several applications. A library of ELP-curcumin conjugates were synthesized and characterized. One lead conjugate was shown to display high drug loading, rapidly release curcumin in vitro via degradable carbamate bonds, and retain in vitro bioactivity against TNFα and NF-κB with near-equivalent potency compared to free curcumin. When injected into the perineural space via intramuscular (i.m.) injection proximal to the sciatic nerve in mice, ELP-curcumin conjugates underwent a thermally triggered soluble-insoluble phase transition, leading to in situ formation of a depot that released curcumin over 4 days post-injection and decreased systemic exposure of curcumin 3-fold.
The results of this dissertation support the use of ELP as a drug carrier for local perineural drug delivery, and the strategy presented here for drug conjugate development and use of depot-forming ELP-curcumin conjugates represents a novel means of providing sustained treatment of neuroinflammation and pain associated with radiculopathy and peripheral nerve injury.
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