Preclinical evaluation of methotrexate-loaded polyelectrolyte complexes and thermosensitive hydrogels as treatment for rheumatoid arthritis


This work proposes new methotrexate (MTX) loaded drug delivery systems (DDS) to treat rheumatoid arthritis via the intra-articular route: a poloxamer based thermosensitive hydrogel (MTX-HG), oligochitosan and hypromellose phthalate-based polyelectrolyte complexes (MTX-PEC) and their association (MTX-PEC-HG). MTX-PEC showed 470 ± 166 nm particle size, 0.298 ± 0.108 polydispersity index, +26 ± 2 mV and 74.3 ± 5.8% MTX efficiency entrapment and particle formation was confirmed by infrared spectroscopy and thermal analysis. MTX-HG and MTX-PEC-HG gelled at 36.7°C. MTX drug release profile was prolonged for MTX-HG and MTX-PEC-HG, and faster for MTX-PEC and free MTX. The in vivo effect of the MTX-DDSs systems was evaluated in induced arthritis rats as single intra-articular dose. The assessed parameters were the mechanical nociceptive threshold, the plasmatic IL-1β level and histological analysis of the tibiofemoral joint. MTX-HG and MTX-PEC-HG performance were similar to free MTX and worse than oral MTX, used as positive control. All DDSs showed some irritative effect, for which further studies are required. MTX-PEC was the best treatment on recovering cartilage damage and decreasing allodynia. Thus, MTX-PEC demonstrated potential to treat rheumatoid arthritis, with the possibility of decreasing the systemic exposure to the drug.




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European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, v. 163.

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