Cyclodextrin-based nanosponges have been found to be promising drug delivery systems. This paper investigates an application that still needs to be studied in depth, that is, the oral delivery of peptides and proteins, choosing insulin as a case study. The nanosponge was synthesized by crosslinking β-cyclodextrins with pyromellitic dianhydride, adopting a top-down approach for its subsequent formulation. A physicochemical characterization, in-vitro and in-vivo tests were carried out on the formulation developed. It was nanometric (around 250 nm) with high negative zeta potential, mucoadhesion and swelling properties, good loading capability (about 14%) and encapsulation efficiency (above 90%). The in-vitro release of insulin was negligible at a gastric pH (below 2%) while sustained at an intestinal pH, thus showing a pH-sensitive behaviour of the nanosponge. The Caco-2 cell permeability assay proved that the intestinal permeation of insulin was enhanced when loaded inside the nanosponge. The in-vivo studies confirmed the presence of insulin in rat plasma and a marked hypoglycemic effect in diabetic mice after duodenal and oral administrations, respectively. These preliminary results are encouraging with a view to continuing to study this β-cyclodextrin nanosponge technology for the oral administration of insulin and extending this approach to other proteins of pharmaceutical interest.
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