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Poly(ortho esters) - A Bioerodible Polymer System Specifically Designed for Drug Delivery

Bioerodible polymers are an important class of biomaterials that are assuming an increasingly important role in drug delivery, orthopedic applications and tissue engineering. While bioerodible polymers based on natural products such as collagen or various polysaccharides have been used in a number of applications, for reasons of availability, purity, lack of antigenicity and ability to tailor polymer properties, a majority of past and current applications have concentrated on synthetic polymers. Of these, the most important are poly(lactic acid), poly(glycolic acid) poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) co-polymers, poly(ortho esters), polyanhydrides and poly(phospho esters). These will not be discussed in this order here, but will be grouped according to the mechanism of hydrolysis.

Polymers that Undergo Bulk Erosion

Bulk erosion can be defined as a hydrolysis process that occurs at a more or less uniform rate throughout the bulk of the material.

Polymers based on Lactic and Glycolic Acids Poly(lactic acid), poly(glycolic acid) and poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) co-polymers were developed as materials to be used in surgical applications, be it reconstructive surgery such as poly(lactic acid) or use as sutures such as poly(glycolic acid) and poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) co-polymers. Due to the fact that these polymers degrade to the natural metabolites lactic and glycolic acid, and because they had FDA approval as suture materials, it was logical that early research in drug delivery selected these materials as matrices for bioerodible drug delivery. However, poly(glycolic acid) is not useful as a drug delivery system because it is highly crystalline, high melting and insoluble in toxicologically acceptable solvents, which makes fabrication of drug delivery devices very difficult and limits its use to bioerodible suture applications.


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By Dr Jorge Heller PhD, Principal Scientist at AP Pharma

Dr Heller has been with AP Pharma since 1994 after a long career at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) and a short stay at ALZA. Dr Heller has been developing bioerodible polymers since 1970 and is the creator of poly(ortho esters), the subject matter of this article. Dr Heller received a BSc degree in Chemistry from the University of California in Berkeley and a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Washington.

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Dr Jorge Heller
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