Dissertation Lina Nyström

Microgels as Carriers for Antimicrobial Peptides: Surface-bound microgels, and factors affecting peptide interactions

With a growing number of multi-resistant bacteria against conventional antibiotics, there is an urgent need to identify new antimicrobial therapeutics. One example that has gained considerable interest is antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). For AMPs to reach their full potential as therapeutics, as well as for other peptide and protein drugs, the right drug delivery system may overcome reported shortcomings, such as fast clearance in the bloodstream and proteolytic degradation. Microgels are weakly cross-linked polymer colloids, which can be made responsive to various stimuli. In the context of drug delivery, microgels are of particular interest as carriers for biomacromolecular drugs, such as peptides and proteins, as their water-rich environment offers both protection against enzymatic degradation and triggered release possibilities. Combining these, the aim of this thesis was to investigate electrostatically triggered surface-bound microgels as a delivery system for AMPs, as well as evaluate such systems as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory coating for biomaterials.

Results presented in this thesis demonstrate effects of microgel charge density, pH, and ionic strength on microgel volume transitions at solid interfaces, surface-induced microgel deformation and nanomechanical properties. In addition, effects of both microgel properties (charge density) and peptide properties (molecular weight, charge density, and posttranslational modifications) on peptide loading and release from surface-bound microgels were investigated. The presented thesis also reports in vitro studies of AMP-loaded microgels in dispersion and surface-bound, as either mono- or multilayers. Notably, the interplay between surface- and release-related effects for the antimicrobial properties of AMP-loaded microgels are investigated. In addition, anti-inflammatory properties of AMP-loaded microgels are also reported.

Taken together, microgels prove an interesting and versatile drug delivery system for AMPs. Results obtained in this thesis have demonstrated that several key factors need to be taken into consideration in the development of surface-bound microgels as a carrier for AMPs, and that small changes in microgel and peptide properties can alter peptide loading and release profiles.