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Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2005 Nov 3;57(11):1556-68. Epub 2005 Sep 29.

The basics and underlying mechanisms of mucoadhesion.

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  • School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Brighton, Lewes Road, Brighton, UK. john.smart@brighton.ac.uk


Mucoadhesion is where two surfaces, one of which is a mucous membrane, adhere to each other. This has been of interest in the pharmaceutical sciences in order to enhance localised drug delivery, or to deliver 'difficult' molecules (proteins and oligonucleotides) into the systemic circulation. Mucoadhesive materials are hydrophilic macromolecules containing numerous hydrogen bond forming groups, the carbomers and chitosans being two well-known examples. The mechanism by which mucoadhesion takes place has been said to have two stages, the contact (wetting) stage followed by the consolidation stage (the establishment of the adhesive interactions). The relative importance of each stage will depend on the individual application. For example, adsorption is a key stage if the dosage form cannot be applied directly to the mucosa of interest, while consolidation is important if the formulation is exposed to significant dislodging stresses. Adhesive joint failure will inevitably occur as a result of overhydration of a dosage form, or as a result of epithelia or mucus turnover. New mucoadhesive materials with optimal adhesive properties are now being developed, and these should enhance the potential applications of this technology.

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