PloS one

Local release of tacrolimus from hydrogel-based drug delivery system is controlled by inflammatory enzymes in vivo and can be monitored non-invasively using in vivo imaging.

PMID 30161258


Local drug delivery systems that adjust the release of immunosuppressive drug in response to the nature and intensity of inflammation represent a promising approach to reduce systemic immunosuppression and its side effects in allotransplantation. Here we aimed to demonstrate that release of tacrolimus from triglycerol monostearate hydrogel is inflammation-dependent in vivo. We further report that by loading the hydrogel with a near-infrared dye, it is possible to monitor drug release non-invasively in an in vivo model of vascularized composite allotransplantation. Inflammation was induced by local challenge with lipopolysaccharides in naïve rats 7 days after injection of tacrolimus-loaded hydrogel in the hind limb. Tacrolimus levels in blood and tissues were measured at selected time points. A near-infrared dye was encapsulated in the hydrogel together with tacrolimus in order to monitor hydrogel deposits and drug release in vitro and in vivo in a model of vascularized composite allotransplantation. Injection of lipopolysaccharides led to increased blood and skin tacrolimus levels (p = 0.0076, day 7 vs. day 12 in blood, and p = 0.0007 in treated limbs, 48 h after injection compared to controls). Moreover, lipopolysaccharides-injected animals had higher tacrolimus levels in treated limbs compared to contralateral limbs (p = 0.0003 for skin and p = 0.0053 for muscle). Imaging of hydrogel deposits and tacrolimus release was achieved by encapsulating near-infrared dye in the hydrogel for 160 days. The correlation of tacrolimus and near-infrared dye release from hydrogel was R2 = 0.6297 and R2 = 0.5619 in blood and grafts of transplanted animals respectively and R2 = 0.6066 in vitro. Here we demonstrate the inflammation-responsiveness of a tacrolimus-loaded hydrogel in vivo. Moreover, we show that encapsulating a near-infrared dye in the hydrogel provides a reliable correlation of tacrolimus and dye release from the hydrogel, and an accessible non-invasive method for monitoring drug release from hydrogel deposits.