Novel method to characterize the hydrolytic decomposition of biopolymer surfaces

É Kiss, E. I. Vargha-Butler

Research output: Article

25 Citations (Scopus)


Present pharmaceutical research is focused on the development, modification and characterisation of new drug delivery systems. Among the many different substances, biodegradable polymers and copolymers are of practical importance, especially if their degradation byproducts are non-toxic. The polymeric drug carriers are not easily wettable by water or aqueous solutions, i.e. they are hydrophobic. This surface hydrophobicity is unfavourable for keeping drug carriers circulating in the blood long enough to release the drug so that it reaches its target. Therefore, copolymers with components of different hydrophobicity were introduced, to make them less hydrophobic and hence more suitable for drug delivery in the human body. Exploratory experiments with one homopolymer, D,L-poly(lactic acid), D,L-PLA and two of its copolymers, D,L-poly(lactic/glycolic acid), and D,L-PLGA with 85/15 and 50/50 copolymer ratios were carried out. Films of these substances were prepared by dip coating onto hydrophobic and hydrophilic substrates. The changes in wettability of the polymer layers, caused by the direct contact with an aqueous environment (soaking the samples in distilled water), have been studied to model the hydrolytic decomposition of polymer surfaces and to follow the changes in their wettability by dynamic contact angle measurements in a non-destructive manner. It was found that each polymer film became less hydrophobic (dynamic contact angles decreased) and more heterogeneous as the decomposition progressed with time. Increasingly significant decreases in contact angles were observed for the copolymer films containing 15 and 50% glycolic acid, during the 50-80-day-long study. These findings were supported by gel chromatographic analysis of the soaking liquids. It was concluded that the homopolymer layer of D,L-PLA was the most resistant to hydrolysis and the stability of copolymer films decreased with increasing glycolic acid ratio in the copolymers. This is accordance with the fact that the less crystalline poly(glycolic acid) is more hydrophilic and hence less resistant to hydrolytic decomposition, than the poly(lactic acid). The effect of pH on the rate of hydrolysis of polymer films was also established; the influence of pH on the decomposition was best demonstrated, again, for the copolymer with 50/50 component ratio. The outcome of these experiments showed that the contact angle measuring method enables us to detect, follow and interpret the hydrolytic decomposition of biopolymer substances in a non-invasive manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-193
Number of pages13
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - okt. 1 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry

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