Chitosan nanoparticles (CS-NPs) are under increasing investigation for the delivery of therapeutic proteins, such as vaccines, interferons, and biologics. A large number of studies have been taken on the characteristics of CS-NPs, and very few of these studies have focused on the microstructure of protein-loaded NPs. In this study, we prepared the CS-NPs by an ionic gelation method, and bovine serum albumin (BSA) was used as a model protein. Dynamic high pressure microfluidization (DHPM) was utilized to post-treat the nanoparticles so as to improve the uniformity, repeatability and controllability. The BSA-loaded NPs were then characterized for particle size, Zeta
potential, morphology, encapsulation efficiency (EE), loading capacity (LC), and subsequent release kinetics. To improve the long-term stability of NPs, trehalose, glucose, sucrose, and mannitol were selected respectively to investigate the performance as a cryoprotectant. Furthermore, trehalose was used to obtain re-dispersible lyophilized NPs that can significantly reduce the dosage of cryoprotectants. Multiple spectroscopic techniques were used to characterize BSA-loaded NPs, in order to explain the release process of the NPs in vitro. The experimental results indicated that CS and Tripolyphosphate pentasodium (TPP) spontaneously formed the basic skeleton of the NPs through electrostatic interactions. BSA was incorporated in the basic skeleton, adsorbed on the surface of the NPs (some of which were inlaid on the NPs), without any change in structure and function. The release profiles of the NPs showed high consistency with the multispectral results.
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