Nano co-crystal embedded stimuli-responsive hydrogels: A potential approach to treat HIV/AIDS

Bwalya A. Witika, Jessé Clint Stander, Vincent J. Smith, Roderick B. Walker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Currently, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immunodefi-ciency syndrome (AIDS) can only be treated successfully, using combination antiretroviral (ARV) therapy. Lamivudine (3TC) and zidovudine (AZT), two compounds used for the treatment of HIV and prevention of disease progression to AIDS are used in such combinations. Successful therapy with 3TC and AZT requires frequent dosing that may lead to reduced adherence, resistance and consequently treatment failure. Improved toxicity profiles of 3TC and AZT were observed when combined as a nano co-crystal (NCC). The use of stimuli-responsive delivery systems provides an opportunity to overcome the challenge of frequent dosing, by controlling and/or sustaining delivery of drugs. Preliminary studies undertaken to identify a suitable composition for a stimulus-responsive in situ forming hydrogel carrier for 3TC-AZT NCC were conducted, and the gelation and erosion time were determined. A 25% w/w Pluronic® F-127 thermoresponsive hydrogel was identified as a suitable carrier as it exhibited a gelation time of 5 min and an erosion time of 7 days. NCC-loaded hydrogels were evaluated using in vitro dissolution and cytotoxicity assays. In vitro dissolution undertaken using membrane-less diffusion over 168 h revealed that 3TC and AZT release from NCC-loaded hydrogels was complete and followed zero-order kinetic processes, whereas those loaded with the micro co-crystal and physical mixture were incomplete and best described using the Korsmeyer– Peppas kinetic model. The release of AZT and 3TC from the physical mixture and MCC-loaded gel exhibited a value for n of 0.595 for AZT release from the physical mixture and 0.540 for the MCC technology, whereas the release exponent for 3TC was 0.513 for the physical mixture and 0.557 for the MCC technology indicating that diffusion and erosion controlled 3TC and AZT release. In vitro cytotoxicity assay data revealed that the addition of NCC to the thermoresponsive hydrogel resulted in an improved cell viability of 88.0% ± 5.0% when compared to the cell viability of the NCC of 76.9% ± 5.0%. The results suggest that the use of a thermoresponsive nanosuspension may have the potential to be delivered as an intramuscular injection that can subsequently increase bioavailability and permit dose reduction and/or permit use of a longer dosing frequency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Lamivudine
  • Modified drug release
  • Nano co-crystals
  • Stimuli-responsive hydrogel
  • Zidovudine


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