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Thang, N.H.; Chien, T.B.; Cuong, D.X. Applications of Polymer-Based Hydrogels in Drug Delivery Systems. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 15 June 2024).
Thang NH, Chien TB, Cuong DX. Applications of Polymer-Based Hydrogels in Drug Delivery Systems. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2024.
Thang, Nguyen Hoc, Truong Bach Chien, Dang Xuan Cuong. "Applications of Polymer-Based Hydrogels in Drug Delivery Systems" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 15, 2024).
Thang, N.H., Chien, T.B., & Cuong, D.X. (2023, July 07). Applications of Polymer-Based Hydrogels in Drug Delivery Systems. In Encyclopedia.
Thang, Nguyen Hoc, et al. "Applications of Polymer-Based Hydrogels in Drug Delivery Systems." Encyclopedia. Web. 07 July, 2023.
Applications of Polymer-Based Hydrogels in Drug Delivery Systems

Polymer-based hydrogels are a type of soft material composed of three-dimensional polymer networks that have the ability to absorb and retain large amounts of water or biological fluids while maintaining their structural integrity. Polymer-based hydrogels are hydrophilic polymer networks with crosslinks widely applied for drug delivery applications because of their ability to hold large amounts of water and biological fluids and control drug release based on their unique physicochemical properties and biocompatibility.

hydrogels drug delivery polymer high water content hydrogel matrix

1. Introduction

Drug delivery systems (DDS) play a critical role in optimizing the therapeutic efficacy of drugs by addressing the limitations of traditional drug formulations [1][2]. These limitations include low bioavailability, poor solubility, and a short half-life, which can significantly impact drug efficacy and necessitate frequent dosing [2][3]. However, controlled drug delivery systems, such as polymer-based hydrogels [4], offer a promising solution by enabling sustained drug release for a long time [4][5]. This sustained-release property helps maintain therapeutic drug concentrations within the desired range [6], avoiding a sudden increase or decrease that can lead to suboptimal treatment outcomes [7][8][9]. By extending the release duration, polymer-based hydrogels enhance drug bioavailability [8][10] and reduce the frequency of dosing, supporting patient compliance and convenience [7][11]. Additionally, DDSs including polymer-based hydrogels offer the potential for targeted drug delivery to specific tissues or organs [3][8][12]. By incorporating targeting ligands [13] or modifying the polymer-based hydrogel’s properties [10][14], drugs can be directed to their intended sites of action [3][8]. This targeted approach minimizes systemic exposure [15] and reduces the potential for off-target side effects, while maximizing therapeutic efficacy at the desired site [16][17]. Moreover, DDSs can be tailored to accommodate a wide range of drugs with different physicochemical properties [18]. In particular, polymer-based hydrogels offer versatility in drug loading [8] and release mechanisms [19], allowing for the delivery of various types of drugs with small molecules such as proteins [20][21], peptides [22], and nucleic acids [23]. This flexibility makes polymer-based hydrogels an attractive topic for researchers as well as for their applications in the treatment of various medical conditions.
Polymer-based hydrogels have been widely investigated for drug delivery applications due to their unique properties such as a high water content, biocompatibility, and the ability to respond to various stimuli [11][23]. Some of the applications of hydrogels in drug delivery systems include the following:
Controlled drug release: Polymer-based hydrogels can be used to control the release of drugs by varying the swelling behavior of the hydrogel. By altering the chemical composition or crosslinking density of the hydrogel, the release rate of the drug can be controlled [24][25].
Targeted drug delivery: Polymer-based hydrogels can be designed to specifically target certain tissues or cells. By incorporating targeting moieties such as antibodies or peptides into the hydrogel, the drug can be delivered to a specific site within the body [16][26].
Oral drug delivery: Polymer-based hydrogels can be used to improve the oral bioavailability of drugs. By encapsulating the drug within a hydrogel matrix, the drug can be protected from degradation in the gastrointestinal tract and released in a controlled manner [8][9][16].
Transdermal drug delivery: Polymer-based hydrogels can be used for transdermal drug delivery by incorporating the drug into the hydrogel matrix. The hydrogel can then be applied topically to the skin, and the drug will be released in a controlled manner over time [27][28].
Implantable drug delivery systems: Polymer-based hydrogels can be used as implantable drug delivery systems, where the hydrogel is placed within the body and releases the drug over an extended period of time. These systems can be used for the treatment of chronic diseases or for the delivery of long-acting drugs [29][30].
Gene delivery: Polymer-based hydrogels can also be used for the delivery of genetic material such as DNA or RNA. By incorporating the genetic material into the hydrogel matrix, the material can be protected from degradation and delivered to specific cells or tissues [31][32].
The unique properties of polymer-based hydrogels make them a promising candidate for drug delivery applications, and ongoing research in this area is expected to lead to the development of new and innovative drug delivery systems. There are common hydrogel-based products known as biotene, Simpurity™ Hydrogel (SupremeMed, Van Nuys City, City of Los Angeles, CA, USA), Soflens daily disposable, Nicorette®( Johnson & Johnson, Stockholm, Sweden), Neutrogena® Hydro Boost® (Johnson & Johnson, City of Los Angeles, CA, USA), Sericin (Huzhou Shengtao Biotech, Zhejiang, China), Suprasorb® G (Lohmann & Rauscher, Rengsdorf, Germany) and others.

2. Biotene Products

Biotene is an oral moisturizing agent that is commonly used for treating dry mouth. The product is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (London, United Kingdom) and contains a mixture of ingredients, including carbomer and hydroxyethyl cellulose, which are hydrogels that have the ability to absorb water and retain it within their three-dimensional structures. These hydrogels provide a sustained release of moisture in the oral cavity, relieving the symptoms of dry mouth and promoting oral health. Biotene is also available in other formulations, including mouthwash, toothpaste, and oral gel, and is recommended for individuals with dry mouth caused by medication, radiation therapy, or Sjogren’s syndrome [33].

3. SimpurityTM Hydrogel

Simpurity™ (from SupremeMed, Van Nuys City, City of Los Angeles, United States) Hydrogel from Safe n’ Simple is a hydrogel product that is used to treat skin burns, dry wounds, and dry scabs. The product is made from a combination of polyethylene oxide (PEO), polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), acrylate, polyurethane, and pure water to create absorbent sheets. The hydrogel is designed to provide a moist environment for wound healing and can also help to reduce pain and inflammation. It is a widely used product for wound care and is known for its effectiveness in promoting wound healing [34].

4. Soflens Daily Disposable

Soflens daily disposable from Bausch & Lomb (New York, NY, USA) is a contact lens product used to correct short- and long-sightedness. The hydrogel material used in this product allows for a high water content and oxygen permeability, making the lenses comfortable for extended wear. The hydrogel also helps to maintain moisture around the lens, preventing dryness and discomfort for the wearer [35].

5. Nicorette® Hydrogel

Nicorette® hydrogel from GlaxoSmithKline (London, UK) is a chewing gum used as a smoking cessation aid. It contains hydroxypropyl methylcellulose as one of its components. The hydrogel in the chewing gum acts as a carrier for the nicotine and helps to release it slowly over time, providing a controlled release of nicotine to help with cravings and withdrawal symptoms during the quitting process [33].

6. Neutrogena® Hydro Boost® Hydrogel

Neutrogena® Hydro Boost® is a hydrogel-based face mask from Johnson and Johnson (City of Los Angeles, CA, USA)) that is used to provide the skin with immediate and long-lasting moisture. The key ingredient in the mask is hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occurring polysaccharide that can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. The hydrogel mask is designed to adhere to the skin and slowly release the hydrating ingredients over time, leaving the skin feeling soft, supple, and moisturized [36].

7. Sericin Hydrogel

Sericin (Huzhou Shengtao Biotech, Zhejiang, China) has also been investigated for its potential use in drug delivery systems. In one study, sericin was used as a carrier for an optically trackable drug delivery system for malignant melanoma. The sericin nanoparticles loaded with the drug were shown to effectively deliver the drug to cancer cells and inhibit their growth, indicating its potential as a promising drug delivery system for cancer therapy [37].

8. Suprasorb® G Hydrogel

Suprasorb G (Lohmann & Rauscher, Rengsdorf, Germany) hydrogel is a wound dressing that is used for the management of various types of wounds such as lower leg ulcers, pressure ulcers, first- and second-degree burns, and scalds. The hydrogel is composed of a blend of acrylic polymers, polyethylene (PE), and phenoxyethanol, and contains 70% water. The hydrogel provides a moist environment for the wound, which promotes wound healing by facilitating the migration of cells and promoting the formation of granulation tissue. The water content of the hydrogel also helps to cool the wound, reducing pain and inflammation. Suprasorb G hydrogel is easy to apply and remove and can be used on both dry and exuding wounds [38].

In conclusion, polymer-based hydrogels offer significant potential in drug delivery systems. Their unique properties, biocompatibility, and ability to control drug release make them promising candidates for the development of innovative and effective therapeutic strategies. Continued research and development in this field are expected to lead to further advancements and applications of polymer-based hydrogels in the drug delivery fields and beyond.


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Subjects: Polymer Science
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