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Epidural steroid injection (ESI) is a common therapeutic approach for managing sciatica caused by lumbar disc herniation (LDH). However, the short duration of therapeutic efficacy and the need for repeated injections pose challenges in LDH treatment. The development of a controlled delivery system capable of prolonging the effectiveness of ESI and reducing the frequency of injections, is highly significant in LDH clinical practice. In this study, we utilized a thiol-ene click chemistry to create a series of injectable hyaluronic acid (HA) based release systems loaded with diphasic betamethasone, including betamethasone dipropionate (BD) and betamethasone 21-phosphate disodium (BP) (BD/BP@HA). BD/BP@HA hydrogel implants demonstrated biocompatibility and biodegradability to matched neuronal tissues, avoiding artificial compression following injection. The sustained release of betamethasone from BD/BP@HA hydrogels effectively inhibited both acute and chronic neuroinflammation by suppressing the nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB) pathway. In a mouse model of LDH, the epidural administration of BD/BP@HA efficiently alleviated LDH-induced sciatica for at least 10 days by inhibiting the activation of macrophages and microglia in dorsal root ganglion and spinal dorsal horn, respectively. The newly developed HA hydrogels represent a valuable platform for achieving sustained drug release. Additionally, we provide a simple paradigm for fabricating BD/BP@HA for epidural injection, demonstrating greater and sustained efficiency in alleviating LDH-induced sciatica compared to traditional ESI and displaying potentials for clinical translation. This system has the potential to revolutionize drug delivery for co-delivery of both soluble and insoluble drugs, thereby making a significant impact in the pharmaceutical industry. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Lumbar disc herniation (LDH) is a common degenerative disorder leading to sciatica and spine surgery. Although epidural steroid injection (ESI) is routinely used to alleviate sciatica, the efficacy is short and repeated injections are required. There remains challenging to prolong the efficacy of ESI. Herein, an injectable hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogel implant by crosslinking acrylated-modified HA (HA-A) with thiol-modified HA (HA-SH) was designed to achieve a biphasic release of betamethasone. The hydrogel showed biocompatibility and biodegradability to match neuronal tissues. Notably, compared to traditional ESI, the hydrogel better alleviated sciatica in vivo by synergistically inhibiting the neuroinflammation in central and peripheral nervous systems. We anticipate the injectable HA hydrogel implant has the potential for clinical translation in treating LDH-induced sciatica. Copyright © 2024. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


Lunhao Chen, Chao Jiang, Qian Xu, Jiale Jin, Sigen A, Xi Wang, Xiaolin Li, Yaling Hu, Huankun Sun, Xuan Lu, Shumin Duan, Zhihua Gao, Wenxin Wang, Yue Wang. Biphasic release of betamethasone from an injectable HA hydrogel implant for alleviating lumbar disc herniation induced sciatica. Acta biomaterialia. 2024 Mar 01;176:173-189

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PMID: 38244658

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