Visible-Light-Activated High-Density Materials for Controlled in Vivo Insulin Release.

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DOI: 10.1021/acs.molpharmaceut.9b00806; PMCID: PMC7050939


In this work, we describe the synthesis, characterization, and ultimate in vivo assessment of second-generation insulin photoactivated depot (PAD) materials. These are the first to use visible light to stimulate insulin release and have an in vivo performance that is 28-fold improved relative to first-generation materials. This improvement is due to two major factors linked to the utilized chemistry: (1) we have incorporated the coumarin photocleavable group, which increases the photorelease wavelength into the visible range, enhancing tissue penetration of the light; (2) phototoggling of insulin solubility is produced by linking three insulin molecules to a central bridge via light cleaved groups, and not by bonding to a large polymer. The resulting trimer is, therefore, highly dense (87% insulin dry w/w) but retains the insolubility required of the approach. Only after irradiation with visible light is native, soluble insulin is released from the dermal depot. This high density increases the amount and ease of insulin release, as the density of photolytic groups is 10-20-fold higher than in polymer-based first-generation materials. We have synthesized new azide-terminated coumarin linkers that we react with the amine groups of insulin. Using mass spectrometry methods, we identify the sites of reaction and purify individual isomers, which we demonstrate have in vitro photolysis rates that are within a factor of 2 of each other. We then reacted these terminal azide groups with a tridentate strained alkyne linker. We show that the resulting insulin trimer is highly insoluble, but can be milled into injectable particles that release insulin only in response to light from a 406 nm light source. Finally, we demonstrate that these materials have a significantly improved in vivo performance, releasing 28-fold more insulin on a per energy basis than first-generation materials.

Journal Title

Molecular pharmaceutics





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MeSH Keywords

Azides; Coumarins; Insulin; Light; Photolysis; Polymers; Solubility


click chemistry; coumarin; insulin; photolysis; protein chemistry

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