Oral delivery of protein-transporter bioconjugates using intelligent complexation hydrogels
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Several polymer systems including P(MAA-g-EG) and P(MAA-co-NVP) with crosslinking agents TEGDMA and PEGDMA1000, monomer-to-solvent ratios of 67:33, 60:40, and 50:50, and particle sizes of <75 microns, 90-150 microns, and 150-212 microns were synthesized for use with protein-transporter conjugates. All synthesized systems were characterized by SEM which demonstrated the visual size, surface features, and surface textures of the polymer microparticles. Insulin-transferrin and calcitonin-transferrin conjugates were successfully synthesized using the protein crosslinker SPDP, binding the two proteins with a disulfide bond. The multi-step conjugation reactions used to create the conjugates were analyzed by the use of UV spectroscopy and HPLC to ensure the quality of the final products. In both conjugation reactions, the final product yield was found to be over 70%. The in vitro loading and release characteristics for insulin-transferrin and calcitonin-transferrin were separately investigated. By testing loading and release using a number of different polymer systems with different synthesis parameters, it was possible to optimize the hydrogel carriers for use with each of the conjugates independently. Upon optimization, the ideal system for use with insulin-transferrin and calcitonin-transferrin was found to be P(MAA-g-EG) microparticles of <75 microns formed using a PEGDMA1000 crosslinker and a 50:50 monomer-to-solvent ratio for both conjugates through separate optimization processes. This optimized polymer carrier was found to release upwards of 50% of loaded insulin-transferrin conjugate and near 90% of loaded calcitonin-transferrin conjugate. The insulin-transferrin conjugate was further evaluated through the use of cellular and animal models. Using cellular models, the insulin-transferrin conjugate was shown to increase transport relative to insulin by a factor of 7, achieving an apparent permeability of 37 x 10⁹ cm/s. Also, in the presence of polymer microparticles, the insulin-transferrin conjugate increased transport by a factor of 14 times relative to insulin, achieve an apparent permeability of 72.8 x 10⁹ cm/s. The presence of the microparticles near the cells was found to improve conjugate transport by nearly 100%. The preliminary animal studies verified the successful synthesis of the insulin-transferrin conjugate as well as demonstrated the bioactivity of the insulin portion of the molecule by achieving a drop in blood glucose level upon subcutaneous injection.