New biomaterials that have the ability to locally suppress an immune response could have broad therapeutic use in the treatment of diseases characterized by acute or chronic inflammation or as a strategy to facilitate improved efficacy in cell or tissue transplantation. We report here on the preparation of a modular peptide amphiphile (PA) capable of releasing an anti-inflammatory drug, dexamethasone (Dex), by conjugation via a labile hydrazone linkage. This molecule self-assembled in water into long supramolecular nanofibers when mixed with a similar PA lacking the drug conjugate, and the addition of calcium salt to screen electrostatic repulsion between nanofibers promoted gel formation. These nanofibergels demonstrated sustained release of soluble Dex for over one month in physiologic media. The Dex released from these gels maintained its anti-inflammatory activity when evaluated in vitro using a human inflammatory reporter cell line and furthermore preserved cardiomyocyte viability upon induced oxidative stress. The ability of this gel to mitigate the inflammatoryresponse in cell transplantation strategies was evaluated using cell-surrogate polystyrene microparticles suspended in the nanofibergel that were then subcutaneously injected into mice. Live animal luminescence imaging using the chemiluminescent reporter molecule luminol showed a significant reduction in inflammation at the site where particles were injected with Dex-PA compared to the site of injection for particles within a control PA in the same animal. Histological evidence suggested a marked reduction in the number of infiltrating inflammatory cells when particles were delivered within Dex-PA nanofibergels, and very little inflammation was observed at either 3 days or 21 days post-implantation. The use of Dex-PA could facilitate localized anti-inflammatory activity as a component of biomaterials designed for various applications in regenerative medicine and could specifically be a useful module for PA-based therapies. More broadly, these studies define a versatile strategy for facile synthesis of self-assembling peptide-based materials with the ability to control drug release.
This paper was originally published in Biomaterials (2012) 33, 6823-6832.