Air-jet spun corn zein nanofibers and thin films with topical drug for medical applications

Christopher R. Gough, Kristen Bessette, Ye Xue, Xiaoyang Mou, Xiao Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Diabetic patients are especially susceptible to chronic wounds of the skin, which can lead to serious complications. Sodium citrate is one potential therapeutic molecule for the topical treatment of diabetic ulcers, but its viability requires the assistance of a biomaterial matrix. In this study, nanofibers and thin films fabricated from natural corn zein protein are explored as a drug delivery vehicle for the topical drug delivery of sodium citrate. Corn zein is cheap and abundant in nature, and easily extracted with high purity, while nanofibers are frequently cited as ideal drug carriers due to their high surface area and high porosity. To further reduce costs, the 1-D nanofibers in this study were fabricated through an air jet-spinning method rather than the conventional electrospinning method. Thin films were also created as a comparative 2-D material. Corn zein composite nanofibers and thin films with different concentration of sodium citrate (1–30%) were analyzed through FTIR, DSC, TGA, and SEM. Results reveal that nanofibers are a much more effective vehicle than films, with the ability to interact with sodium citrate. Thermal analysis results show a stable material with low degradation, while FTIR reveals strong control over the protein secondary structures and hold of citrate. These tunable properties and morphologies allow the fibers to provide a sustained release of citrate and then revert to their structure prior to citrate loading. A statistical analysis via t-test confirmed a significant difference between fiber and film drug release. A biocompatibility study also confirms that cells are much more tolerant of the porous nanofiber structure than the nonporous protein films, and lower percentages of sodium citrate (1–5%) were outperformed to higher percentages (15–30%). This study demonstrated that protein-based nanofiber materials have high potential as vehicles for the delivery of topical diabetic drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5780
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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