In the last decade, electrohydrodynamic (EHD) processing techniques have gained considerable attention triggered mainly by the potential applications in nanoscience and nanotechnology. EHD technologies are versatile and powerful processes to produce submicrometer fibers or particles with diameters down to a few nanometers. A wide range of materials with different morphologies and functionalities can be prepared by electrospinning and electrohydrodynamic atomization, displaying huge potential in cutting-edge research fields. The morphology of the obtained systems can be controlled by optimizing the intrinsic solution properties, processing parameters and environmental conditions. Modifications of the basic set-up and post-processing treatments enhanced control over fiber alignment/patterning and surface characteristics.
The use of drug-loaded electrospun micro/nanofibers in the biomedical field is gaining interest due to a number of advantages including improved therapeutic index, possibility for localized delivery and reduced toxicity of drugs. Some of the unique features of electrospun fibers as drug delivery carriers relate to their ability to incorporate a wide range of drugs, their large specific surface area and interconnected porous structure and the ease of fabricating the delivery vehicle in the required architecture or form. Major requirements of drug eluting fiber mats include adequate mechanical properties, biodegradability, biocompatibility, and control of drug release and burst effect to ensure physical integrity of construct and long term delivery or immediate action at the targeted location. Therapeutic agents can be dissolved or suspended in the polymer matrix, loaded in the core and shell or coaxial fibers, incorporated in emulsions, and attached to the fiber surface by chemical immobilization or physical adsorption.
Our research group focuses its efforts on the design, preparation, characterization and processing of polymeric scaffolds and polymeric/composite micro/nanofibers and micro/nanoparticles obtained by EHD processes for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications. In this presentation, the key factors in the development of polymer/composite drug delivery systems by EHD techniques are presented. Experimental works related to electrospun nanocomposites, emulsion electrospinning and pH-responsive nanofibrous scaffolds are analysed and discussed. Finally, current challenges and future perspectives in this field are outlined.