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Pharmaceutics. 2013 Oct 25;5(4):542-69. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics5040542.

Surface engineering of liposomes for stealth behavior.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, 1110 North Stonewall Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73117, USA. vawasthi@ouhsc.edu.


Liposomes are used as a delivery vehicle for drug molecules and imaging agents. The major impetus in their biomedical applications comes from the ability to prolong their circulation half-life after administration. Conventional liposomes are easily recognized by the mononuclear phagocyte system and are rapidly cleared from the blood stream. Modification of the liposomal surface with hydrophilic polymers delays the elimination process by endowing them with stealth properties. In recent times, the development of various materials for surface engineering of liposomes and other nanomaterials has made remarkable progress. Poly(ethylene glycol)-linked phospholipids (PEG-PLs) are the best representatives of such materials. Although PEG-PLs have served the formulation scientists amazingly well, closer scrutiny has uncovered a few shortcomings, especially pertaining to immunogenicity and pharmaceutical characteristics (drug loading, targeting, etc.) of PEG. On the other hand, researchers have also begun questioning the biological behavior of the phospholipid portion in PEG-PLs. Consequently, stealth lipopolymers consisting of non-phospholipids and PEG-alternatives are being developed. These novel lipopolymers offer the potential advantages of structural versatility, reduced complement activation, greater stability, flexible handling and storage procedures and low cost. In this article, we review the materials available as alternatives to PEG and PEG-lipopolymers for effective surface modification of liposomes.

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