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Spatially resolved small-angle X-ray scattering for characterizing mechanoresponsive liposomes using microfluidics

Marzia Buscema, Hans Deyhle, Thomas Pfohl, Andreas Zumbuehl, Bert Müller. Materials Today Bio 1 (2019) 100003

Atherosclerosis gives rise to blood vessel occlusion associated with blood flow alteration and substantial increase of average wall shear stress. This modification was proved acting as a purely physical trigger for targeted vasodilator release from a particular type of liposomes composed of 1,3-diaminophospholipids (Pad-PC-Pad). The flow-induced structural changes of these faceted liposomes, however, are completely unknown. Therefore, spatially resolved small-angle X-ray scattering was combined with microfluidics to uniquely study the purely physical mechanisms, which give rise to the highly efficient drug release from mechanoresponsive liposomes of nanometer size. The microfluidic device, designed to mimic a stenotic blood vessel, consisted of a 1-mm-wide channel with a constriction, 125 μm in diameter. Here, the changes of the average bilayer thickness and the mean size of the mechanoresponsive liposomes have been locally detected under flow conditions. Overall shape and bilayer thickness do change already near the constriction inlet, but the alteration is dominant near the outlet. At a flow rate of 0.2 μL/s, the liposome's bilayer thickness increased by 30% compared to the situation well before the constriction and under static condition. The detected bilayer thickness increase of the faceted liposomes is in line with the mechanically induced loss of interdigitation between the phospholipid amide chains. These results imply that rather the gradient force than the wall shear stress provokes structural changes of Pad-PC-Pad liposomes and the related drug release at stenoses. The approach, i.e. the combination of microfluidics and spatially resolved small-angle X-ray scattering, paves the way to design highly efficient and specific systems for the targeted drug delivery at constrictions with predefined morphology.

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