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A review: Drug delivery by surfactants

M. Nadeem and I.B. Tan

surfactants, micelles, vesicles, liposomes, drug delivery

Surfactants are amphipathic substances with lyophobic and lyophilic groups making them capable of adsorbing at the interfaces between liquids, solids and gases, to form self-associated clusters, which normally lead to organized molecular assemblies, monolayers, micelles, vesicles and membranes. Their capability of reducing surface tension allows them to mix or disperse readily as emulsions in water or other liquids. Surfactants are among the most versatile products of the chemical industry having potential applications ranging from agricultural sprays to oil recovery including areas such as catalysis, coatings, dispersions, electronics, floatation of minerals and lubrication, etc. Where as biomedical applications of surfactants extend from anesthesiology to zoology covering artificial implants, gene transfection, biomembranes, biolubrication, lipoproteins, opthalmogy, pharmaceuticals and pharmacology. Moreover, biological surfactants perform a vital role in the metabolic processes of living organisms. For instance, the pathological effects of sucrose like dental cavities and also higher caloric contents have led to the use of certain surfactants e.g. the non-ionic sorbitol as sugar substitutes in some confection. Where as, phospholipid lecithin, bile salts, certain fatty acids and their derivatives are the natural emulsifiers that by reducing the surface tension of fat globules help them to be dispersed in water and hence get solubilized. In pharmaceutical processing they have become indispensable since they afford a uniquely effective and efficient mechanism of drug carriage by solubilizing the drugs of fatty origin. In this article potential applications of some selected surfactants as drug carriers have been reviewed.
Keywords: Surfactants, Micelles, Vesicles, Liposomes, Solubilisation, Drug delivery

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