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Pharm Res. 2014 Mar;31(3):684-93. doi: 10.1007/s11095-013-1190-5. Epub 2013 Sep 25.

PLGA/liposome hybrid nanoparticles for short-chain ceramide delivery.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48108, USA.



Rapid premature release of lipophilic drugs from liposomal lipid bilayer to plasma proteins and biological membranes is a challenge for targeted drug delivery. The purpose of this study is to reduce premature release of lipophilic short-chain ceramides by encapsulating ceramides into liposomal aqueous interior with the aid of poly (lactic-coglycolicacid) (PLGA).


BODIPY FL labeled ceramide (FL-ceramide) and BODIPY-TR labeled ceramide (TR-ceramide) were encapsulated into carboxy-terminated PLGA nanoparticles. The negatively charged PLGA nanoparticles were then encapsulated into cationic liposomes to obtain PLGA/liposome hybrids. As a control, FL-ceramide and/or TR ceramide co-loaded liposomes without PLGA were prepared. The release of ceramides from PLGA/liposome hybrids and liposomes in rat plasma, cultured MDA-MB-231 cells, and rat blood circulation was compared using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between FL-ceramide (donor) and TR-ceramide (acceptor).


FRET analysis showed that FL-ceramide and TR-ceramide in liposomal lipid bilayer were rapidly released during incubation with rat plasma. In contrast, the FL-ceramide and TR-ceramide in PLGA/liposome hybrids showed extended release. FRET images of cells revealed that ceramides in liposomal bilayer were rapidly transferred to cell membranes. In contrast, ceramides in PLGA/liposome hybrids were internalized into cells with nanoparticles simultaneously. Upon intravenous administration to rats, ceramides encapsulated in liposomal bilayer were completely released in 2 min. In contrast, ceramides encapsulated in the PLGA core were retained in PLGA/liposome hybrids for 4 h.


The PLGA/liposome hybrid nanoparticles reduced in vitro and in vivo premature release of ceramides and offer a viable platform for targeted delivery of lipophilic drugs.

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