Macrophages have unique surface receptors that might recognize preferentially several moieties present on the surface of infecting organisms, including in the bacterial cell wall. Benefiting from a similar composition regarding the referred moieties, polysaccharides might be good candidates to compose the matrix of drug carriers aimed at macrophage targeting, as they can use the same recognition pathways of the infecting organisms. Carrageenan (CRG), a polysaccharide extracted from red edible seaweed, is an interesting possibility for the approach of directly targeting alveolar macrophages, as its composition is reported to be recognized by several macrophage lectin receptors. Inhalable starch/CRG microparticles were successfully produced, effectively associating isoniazid (96%) and rifabutin (74%) simultaneously. Furthermore, the produced microparticles presented adequate aerodynamic properties for pulmonary delivery with potential to reach the respiratory zone, with a mass median aerodynamic diameter (MMAD) between 3.3 and 3.9 μm. It was further demonstrated that the antitubercular activity of the drugs remained unchanged after encapsulation. The formulation evidenced no cytotoxic effects on lung epithelial cells (A549), although mild toxicity was observed on macrophage-differentiated THP-1 cells for the drug-loaded formulation. Starch/CRG microparticles also exhibited a propensity to be captured by macrophages in a dose-dependent manner, as well as an ability to activate the target cells. This work provides indications on the potential of the starch/CRG carriers to interact with macrophages, thus providing a platform for drug delivery in the context of macrophage intracellular diseases. Additionally, if tuberculosis is focused, these microparticles can be used as inhalable drug carriers. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].
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