In situ epicatechin-loaded hydrogel implants for local drug delivery to spinal column for effective management of post-traumatic spinal injuries

  • Jun Lu
  • You-ting Ju
  • Shou-lin Chen
  • Jun-ying Cai
  • Guo-hai Xu
  • Yan-hui Hu
Keywords: Epicatechin, In situ gel, Chitosan, Spinal injury, Post-traumatic, Motor activity, Antiinflammatory


Purpose: To prepare hydrogels loaded with epicatechin, a strong antioxidant,  anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective tea flavonoid, and characterise them in situ as a vehicle for prolonged and safer drug delivery in patients with post-traumatic spinal cord injury.
Methods: Five in situ gel formulations were prepared using chitosan and evaluated in terms of their visual appearance, clarity, pH, viscosity, and in vitro drug release. In vivo anti-inflammatory activity was determined and compared with 2 % piroxicam gel as standard. Motor function activity in a rat model of spinal injury was examined comparatively with i.v. methylprednisolone as standard.
Results: The N-methyl pyrrolidone solution (containing 1 % w/w epicatechin with 2 to 10 % w/w chitosan) of the in situ gel formulation had a uniform pH in the range of 4.01 ± 0.12 to 4.27 ± 0.02. High and uniform drug loading, ranging from 94.48 ± 1.28 to 98.08 ± 1.24 %, and good in vitro drug release (79.48 ± 2.84 to 96.48 ± 1.02 % after 7 days) were achieved. The in situ gel prepared from 1 % epicatechin and 2 % chitosan (E5) showed the greatest in vivo anti-inflammatory activity  (60.58 % inhibition of paw oedema in standard carrageenan-induced hind rat paw oedema model, compared with 48.08 % for the standard). The gels showed  significant therapeutic effectiveness against post-traumainduced spinal injury in rats. E5 elicited maximum motor activity (horizontal bar test) in the spinal injury
rat model; the rats that received E5 treatment produced an activity score of 3.62 ± 0.02 at the end of 7 days, compared with 5.0 ± 0.20 following treatment with the standard.
Conclusion: In situ epicatechin-loaded gel exhibits significant neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, and therefore can potentially be used for prolonged and safe drug delivery in patients with traumatic spinal cord injury.

Keywords: Epicatechin, In situ gel, Chitosan, Spinal injury, Post-traumatic, Motor activity, Antiinflammatory


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1596-9827
print ISSN: 1596-5996