Dual-acting zeta-potential-changing micelles for optimal mucus diffusion and enhanced cellular uptake after oral delivery

Ahmad Malkawi, Nasr Alrabadi, Ross Allan Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Context: Overcoming the intestinal mucosal barrier can be a challenge in drug delivery. Nanoemulsions with negative zeta potentials can effectively permeate the mucus layer, but those with positive zeta potentials are better taken up by cells; a nanoemulsion with capricious zeta potential from negative to positive can achieve both good permeation and high uptake. Objective: This study aimed to develop dual-acting zeta-potential-amphoteric micelles enabling optimal mucopermeation and enhancement of cellular uptake. Methods: A micellar pre-concentrate was prepared from 15% Labrasol, 15% Kolliphor EL, 30% Kolliphor RH 40, and 40% dimethylsulfoxide. The micellar pre-concentrate was loaded with anionic stearic acid (SA), forming ionic complexes with cationic polymers at a ratio of 25:1 with Eudragit RS 100 and Eudragit RL 100. Blank micelles and those containing complexes were separately diluted in physiological buffers and examined for their droplet sizes, polydispersity indices (PDIs), zeta potentials, and cytotoxicity. The SA release from the micellar complexes was evaluated in 0.1 mM phosphate buffer (pH 6.8) containing 0.001% fluorescein, thereby enabling an instant decrease in fluorescence. Finally, the micelles were loaded with the model drug fluorescein diacetate (FDA) and evaluated for their muco-permeation behavior and cellular uptake. Results: The micellar dilutions formed micelles at the critical micelle concentration (CMC) of 312 µg/mL and showed a uniform average droplet size of 14.2 nm, with a PDI < 0.1. Micellar dilutions were non-cytotoxic when used at 1:100 in a physiological medium. Micelles loaded with ionic complexes achieved a sustained release of 95.5 ± 3.7% of the SA in 180 min. Moreover, the zeta potential of the complex-loaded micelles shifted from −5.4 to +1.8 mV, whereas the blank micelles showed a stabilized zeta potential of −10 mV. Furthermore, the negatively charged blank and complex-loaded micelles exhibited comparable muco-permeation, with an overall average of 58.2 ± 3.7% diffusion of FDA. The complex-loaded micellar droplets, however, provided a significantly higher cellular uptake of the model drug FDA (2.2-fold, p ≤ 0.01) Conclusion: Due to undergoing a shift in zeta potential, the modified micelles significantly enhanced cellular uptake while preserving mucus-permeating properties.

Original languageEnglish
Article number974
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


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