Electrospun polymer blend nanofibers for tuneable drug delivery: the role of transformative phase separation on controlling the release rate

Pratchaya Tipduangta, Peter Belton, Laszlo Fabian, Li Ying Wang, Huiru Tang, Mark Eddleston, Sheng Qi

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Electrospun fibrous materials have a wide range of biomedical applications, many of them involving the use of polymers as matrices for incorporation of therapeutic agents. The use of polymer blends improves the tuneability of the physicochemical and mechanical properties of the drug loaded fibres. This also benefits the development of controlled drug release formulations, for which the release rate can be modified by altering the ratio of the polymers in the blend. However, to realise these benefits, a clear understanding of the phase behaviour of the processed polymer blend is essential. This study reports an in depth investigation of the impact of the electrospinning process on the phase separation of a model partially miscible polymer blend, PVP K90 and HPMCAS, in comparison to other conventional solvent evaporation based processes including film casting and spin coating. The nanoscale stretching and ultrafast solvent removal of electrospinning lead to an enhanced apparent miscibility between the polymers, with the same blends showing micron scale phase separation when processed using film casting and spin coating. Nanoscale phase separation in electrospun blend fibres was confirmed in the dry state. Rapid, layered, macro-scale phase separation of the two polymers occurred during the wetting of the fibres. This led to a biphasic drug release profile from the fibres, with a burst release from PVP-rich phases and a slower, more continuous release from HPMCAS-rich phases. It was noted that the model drug, paracetamol, had more favourable partitioning into the PVP-rich phase, which is likely to be a result of greater hydrogen bonding between PVP and paracetamol. This led to higher drug contents in the PVP-rich phases than the HPMCAS-rich phases. By alternating the proportions of the PVP and HPMCAS, the drug release rate can be modulated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-39
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number1
Early online date10 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2016


  • Phase separation
  • polymer blends
  • electrospinning
  • tuneable drug release

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