Tissue-adhesive hydrogel for multimodal drug release to immune cells in skin

Nicole B. Day, Rianne Dalhuisen, Nichole E. Loomis, Sarah G. Adzema, Jai Prakash, C. Wyatt Shields IV*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
82 Downloads (Pure)


Both innate and adaptive immune systems play a crucial role in the pathology of skin diseases. To control these cells, there is a need for transdermal drug delivery systems that can target multiple cell populations at independently tunable rates. Herein, we describe a tissue-adhesive hydrogel system that contains particles capable of regulating the release of small molecule drugs at defined rates. Resiquimod (a macrophage-targeting drug) and palbociclib (a T cell-targeting drug) are encapsulated within two types of silicone particles embedded within the hydrogel. We demonstrate that drug release is mediated by the crosslink density of the particles, which is decoupled from the bulk properties of the hydrogel. We show that this system can be used to sustainably polarize macrophages toward an anti-tumor phenotype in vitro and ex vivo, and that the hydrogels can remain attached to skin explants for several days without generating toxicity. The hydrogel system is compatible with standard dermatological procedures and allows transdermal passage of drugs. The multimodal, tunable nature of this system has implications in treating a variety of skin disorders, managing infections, and delivering vaccines. Statement of significance: We describe a tissue-adhesive hydrogel that can regulate the release of drugs in a manner that is decoupled from its bulk properties. The mechanism of drug release is mediated by embedded microparticles with well-defined crosslink densities. The significance of this system is that, by encapsulating different drugs into the particles, it is possible to achieve multimodal drug release. We demonstrate this capability by releasing two immunomodulatory drugs at disparate rates. A drug that targets innate immune cells is released quickly, and a drug that targets adaptive immune cells is released slowly. This programmable system offers a direct means by which cellular responses can be enhanced through independent targeting for a variety of transdermal applications, including cancer treatment and vaccine delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-220
Number of pages10
JournalActa biomaterialia
Early online date1 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2022


  • Drug delivery
  • Hydrogel
  • Immunotherapy
  • Macrophage polarization
  • Microparticles
  • 22/3 OA procedure


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