Though accurately evaluating the kinetics of release is critical for validating newly designed therapeutic carriers for in vivo applications, few methods yet exist for release measurement in real time and without the need for any sample preparation. Many of the current approaches (e.g. chromatographic methods, absorption spectroscopy, or NMR spectroscopy) rely on isolation of the released material from the loaded vehicles, which require additional sample purification and can lead to loss of accuracy when probing fast kinetics of release. In this study we describe the use of time-resolved fluorescence for in situ monitoring of small molecule release kinetics from biodegradable polymeric drug delivery systems. This method relies on the observation that fluorescent reporters being released from polymeric drug delivery systems possess distinct excited-state lifetime components, reflecting their different environments in the particle suspensions, i.e., confined in the polymer matrices or free in the aqueous environment. These distinct lifetimes enable real-time quantitative mapping of the relative concentrations of dye in each population to obtain precise and accurate temporal information on the release profile of particular carrier/payload combinations. We found that fluorescence lifetime better distinguishes subtle differences in release profiles (e.g. differences associated with dye loading) than conventional steady-state fluorescence measurements, which represent the averaged dye behavior over the entire scan. Given the method's applicability to both hydrophobic and hydrophilic cargo, it could be employed to model the release of any drug-carrier combination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-314
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 10 2013


  • Biodegradable polymers
  • Drug delivery systems
  • Kinetics of release
  • Real-time monitoring
  • Time-resolved fluorescence


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