Aerogels in drug delivery. Review

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Aerogels are the lightest processed solid materials on Earth and with the largest empty volume fraction in their structure. Composition versatility, modularity, and feasibility of industrial scale manufacturing are behind the fast emergence of aerogels in the drug delivery field. Compared to other 3D materials, the high porosity (interconnected mesopores) and high specific surface area of aerogels may allow faster loading of small-molecule drugs, less constrained access to inner regions of the matrix, and more efficient interactions of the biological milieu with the polymer matrix. Processing in supercritical CO2 medium for both aerogel production (drying) and drug loading (impregnation) has remarkable advantages such as absence of an oxidizing environment, clean manufacture, and easiness for the scale-up under good manufacturing practices. The aerogel solid skeleton dictates the chemical affinity to the different drugs, which in turn determines the loading efficiency and the release pattern. Aerogels can be used to increase the solubility of BCS Class II and IV drugs because the drug can be deposited in amorphous state onto the large surface area of the skeleton, which facilitates a rapid contact with the body fluids, dissolution, and release. Conversely, tuning the aerogel structure by functionalization with drug-binding moieties or stimuli-responsive components, application of coatings and incorporation of drug-loaded aerogels into other matrices may enable site-specific, stimuli-responsive, or prolonged drug release. The present review deals with last decade advances in aerogels for drug delivery. An special focus is paid first on the loading efficiency of active ingredients and release kinetics under biorelevant conditions. Subsequent sections deal with aerogels intended to address specific therapeutic demands. In addition to oral delivery, the physical properties of the aerogels appear to be very advantageous for mucosal administration routes, such as pulmonary, nasal, or transdermal. A specific section devoted to recent achievements in gene therapy and theranostics is also included. In the last section, scale up strategies and life cycle assessment are comprehensively addressed.

Although several types of cyclodextrin(CD)-based aerogels have been reported, they have been used for environmental applications, mostly for wastewater treatment. Development of CD-based aerogels as carriers for drug delivery has been not explored so far.

[1] Carlos A. García-González, Alejandro Sosnik, József Kalmár, Iolanda De Marco, Can Erkey, Angel Concheiro, Carmen Alvarez-Lorenzo (2021) Aerogels in drug delivery: From design to application. Journal of Controlled Release, 332, 40-63,


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