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Assessing microstructural critical quality attributes in PLGA microspheres by FIB-SEM analytics

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Abstract

The distribution of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) within polymer-based controlled release drug products is a critical quality attribute (CQA). It is crucial for the development of such products, to be able to accurately characterize phase distributions in these products to evaluate performance and microstructure (Q3) equivalence. In this study, polymer, API, and porosity distributions in poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) microspheres were characterized using a combination of focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) and quantitative artificial intelligence (AI) image analytics. Through in-depth investigations of nine different microsphere formulations, microstructural CQAs were identified including the abundance, domain size, and distribution of the API, the polymer, and the microporosity. 3D models, digitally transformed from the FIB-SEM images, were reconstructed to predict controlled drug release numerically. Agreement between the in vitro release experiments and the predictions validated the image-based release modelling method. Sensitivity analysis revealed the dependence of release on the distribution and size of the API particles and the porosity within the polymeric microspheres, as captured through FIB-SEM imaging. To our knowledge, this is the first report showing that microstructural CQAs in PLGA microspheres derived from imaging can be quantitatively and predictively correlated with formulation and manufacturing parameters.

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Recent advances in polymeric microspheres for parenteral drug delivery–part 1
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