Engineered PLGA nano- and micro-carriers for pulmonary delivery: challenges and promises


Francesca Ungaro, Department of Pharmaceutical and Toxicological Chemistry, University of Naples Federico II, Via D. Montesano 49, 80131 Naples, Italy. E-mail:


Objectives  The aim of this review is to summarize the current state-of-the-art in poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) carriers for inhalation. It presents the rational of use, the potential and the recent advances in developing PLGA microparticles and nanoparticles for pulmonary delivery. The most promising particle engineering strategies are discussed, highlighting the advantages along with the major challenges for researchers working in this field.

Key findings  Biodegradable polymer carriers, such as PLGA particles, may permit effective protection and long-term delivery of the inhaled drug and, when adequately engineered, its efficient transport to the target. The carrier can be designed for inhalation on the basis of several strategies through the adequate combination of available particle technologies and excipients. In so doing, the properties of PLGA particles can be finely tuned at micro-size and nano-size level to fulfill specific therapeutic needs. This means not only to realize optimal in vitro/in vivo lung deposition of the formulation, which is still crucial, but also to control the fate of the drug in the lung after particle landing.

Summary  Although many challenges still exist, PLGA carriers may be highly beneficial and present a new scenario for patients suffering from chronic lung diseases and for pharmaceutical companies working to develop novel inhaled products.