Air-jet spinning corn zein protein nanofibers for drug delivery: Effect of biomaterial structure and shape on release properties

Kelsey DeFrates, Theodore Markiewicz, Ye Xue, Kayla Callaway, Christopher Gough, Robert Moore, Kristen Bessette, Xiaoyang Mou, Xiao Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Nanofiber materials are commonly used as delivery vehicles for dermatological drugs due to their high surface-area-to-volume ratio, porosity, flexibility, and reproducibility. In this study air-jet spinning was used as a novel and economic method to fabricate corn zein nanofiber meshes with model drugs of varying solubility, molecular weight and charge. The release profiles of these drugs were compared to their release from corn zein films to elucidate the effect of geometry and structure on drug delivery kinetics. In film samples, over 50% of drug was released after only 2 h. However, fiber samples exhibited more sustained release, releasing less than 50% after one day. FTIR, SEM, and DSC were performed on nanofibers and films before and after release of the drugs. Structural analysis revealed that the incorporation of model drugs into the fibers would transform the zein proteins from a random coil network to a more alpha helical structure. Upon release, the protein fiber reverted to its original random coil network. In addition, thermal analysis indicated that fibers can protect the drug molecules in high temperature above 160 °C, while drugs within films will degrade below 130 °C. These findings can likely be attributed to the mechanical infiltration of the drug molecules into the ordered structure of the zein fibers during their solution fabrication. The slow release from fiber samples can be attributed to this biophysical interaction, illustrating that release is dictated by more than diffusion in protein-based carriers. The controlled release of a wide variety of drugs from the air-jet spun corn zein nanofiber meshes demonstrates their success as drug delivery vehicles that can potentially be incorporated into different biological materials in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111419
JournalMaterials Science and Engineering C
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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