Research ArticleDrug Delivery

An inflammation-targeting hydrogel for local drug delivery in inflammatory bowel disease

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Science Translational Medicine  12 Aug 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 300, pp. 300ra128
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa5657

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Charged gels cozy up to inflamed tissues

Inflammation is a driving factor of many chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). To get potent drugs right to the site of inflammation, Zhang et al. designed a negatively charged hydrogel that could self-assemble and deliver hydrophobic anti-inflammatory drugs directly to the inflamed colon surface, which is positively charged. Dexamethasone-loaded hydrogels were administered as an enema to a genetic mouse model of ulcerative colitis (UC)—a type of IBD. The hydrogels relieved inflammation in the animals more effectively than did the free drug, which runs the risk of also affecting healthy tissues. In tissue samples from patients with UC and in another chemically induced mouse model of colitis, the hydrogel microfibers preferentially stuck to the inflamed regions. These findings together suggest that this new gel-based delivery system could reach and directly treat areas of epithelial inflammation in humans.