Solubilisation of drugs within liposomal bilayers: alternatives to cholesterol as a membrane stabilising agent

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Objectives The aim of this work was to investigate the effect of cholesterol on the bilayer loading of drugs and their subsequent release and to investigate fatty alcohols as an alternative bilayer stabiliser to cholesterol.
Methods The loading and release rates of four low solubility drugs (diazepam, ibuprofen, midazolam and propofol) incorporated within the bilayer of multilamellar liposomes which contained a range of cholesterol (0–33 mol/mol%) or a fatty alcohol (tetradecanol, hexadecanol and octadecanol) were investigated. The molecular packing of these various systems was also investigated in Langmuir monolayer studies.
Key findings Loading and release of drugs within the liposome bilayer was shown to be influenced by their cholesterol content: increasing cholesterol content was shown to reduce drug incorporation and inclusion of cholesterol in the bilayer changed the release profile of propofol from zero-order, for phosphatidyl choline only liposomes, to a first-order model when 11 to 33 total molar % of cholesterol was present in the formulation. At higher bilayer concentrations substitution of cholesterol with tetradecanol was shown to have less of a detrimental impact on bilayer drug loading. However, the presence of cholesterol within the liposome bilayer was shown to reduce drug release compared with fatty alcohols. Monolayer studies undertaken showed that effective mean area per molecule for a 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC) : cholesterol mixture deviated by 9% from the predicted area compared with 5% with a similar DSPC : tetradecanol mixture. This evidence, combined with cholesterol being a much more bulky structure, indicated that the condensing influence of tetradecanol was less compared with cholesterol, thus supporting the reduced impact of tetradecanol on drug loading and drug retention.
Conclusions Liposomes can be effectively formulated using fatty alcohols as an alternative bilayer stabiliser to cholesterol. The general similarities in the characteristics of liposomes containing fatty alcohols or cholesterol suggest a common behavioural influence for both compounds within the bilayer.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1646-1655
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
Issue number11
Early online date20 Jul 2010
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • pharmaceutical chemistry, cholesterol, drug delivery systems, excipients, fatty alcohols, liposomes, membranes, pharmaceutical preparations, phosphatidylcholines, solubility, low soluble drugs, monolayer studies

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