From micro- to nanostructured implantable device for local anesthetic delivery

Laura Zorzetto, Paola Brambilla, Elena Marcello, Nora Bloise, Manuela de Gregori, Lorenzo Cobianchi, Andrea Peloso, Massimo Allegri, Livia Visai, Paola Petrini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Local anesthetics block the transmission of painful stimuli to the brain by acting on ion channels of nociceptor fibers, and find application in the management of acute and chronic pain. Despite the key role they play in modern medicine, their cardio and neurotoxicity (together with their short half-life) stress the need for developing implantable devices for tailored local drug release, with the aim of counterbalancing their side effects and prolonging their pharmacological activity. This review discusses the evolution of the physical forms of local anesthetic delivery systems during the past decades. Depending on the use of different biocompatible materials (degradable polyesters, thermosensitive hydrogels, and liposomes and hydrogels from natural polymers) and manufacturing processes, these systems can be classified as films or micro- or nanostructured devices. We analyze and summarize the production techniques according to this classification, focusing on their relative advantages and disadvantages. The most relevant trend reported in this work highlights the effort of moving from microstructured to nanostructured systems, with the aim of reaching a scale comparable to the biological environment. Improved intracellular penetration compared to microstructured systems, indeed, provides specific drug absorption into the targeted tissue and can lead to an enhancement of its bioavailability and retention time. Nanostructured systems are realized by the modification of existing manufacturing processes (interfacial deposition and nanoprecipitation for degradable polyester particles and high- or low-temperature homogenization for liposomes) or development of novel strategies (electrospun matrices and nanogels). The high surface-to-volume ratio that characterizes nanostructured devices often leads to a burst drug release. This drawback needs to be addressed to fully exploit the advantage of the interaction between the target tissues and the drug: possible strategies could involve specific binding between the drug and the material chosen for the device, and a multiscale approach to reach a tailored, prolonged drug release.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2695-2709
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Nanomedicine
Publication statusPublished - Jun 8 2016


  • Liposomes
  • Microencapsulation
  • Microparticle
  • Nanogels
  • Nanoparticle production
  • Pain management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Drug Discovery


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