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Colloidosomes are hollow spherical structures that are formed by the assembly of colloidal particles at the interfaces of two immiscible liquids. As a result the particles are arranged in a shell that is inherently porous. The assembly of colloidal particles at liquid interfaces is used in various applications. Moreover, it is a promising technique for the synthesis of novel materials3 and has recently led to the development of colloidosomes.
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The use of thermally responsive polymer surfactants implies that new thermally responsive colloidosome dispersions could be prepared and this will be examined in future work. During the last two decades, technologies to ensure colloidosomes release have been developed. Significant progress has been made towards achieving colloidal systems that can effectively treat diseases with non-constant dosing therapies. However, there is much work that needs to be carefully demonstrated for the developing colloidal systems.
Colloidosomes can address a wide variety of encapsulation needs in addition to nutrient and drug delivery. One important possibility is immunoisolation of living cells by encapsulation in colloidosomes; they would provide a rigid scaffold that supports the living cell while simultaneously protecting it from the immune system and allowing free diffusion of gases and nutrients. The required 25-nm pore diameter would be achieved using colloidal spheres of 170-nm diameter, well within the range of sizes of particles known to adsorb strongly onto droplets.
Colloidosomes encapsulating cells could also have advantageous properties as bioreactors. Furthermore, a superstructure of colloidosomes may form templates for tissue growth by providing a protected environment that has a useful three-dimensional architecture and allows rapid permeation of small macromolecules. In preliminary experiments, we successfully encapsulated living fibroblast cells and maintained their viability for several hours using particle-coated water droplets in decalin oil. In many cases, the cells adhered to the solid surfaces, suggesting that colloidosomes can be fabricated as rigid porous superstructures to enhance the viability of the cells. Plant protoplast cells are known to survive and grow even after 25 days in contact with oxygen-perfused perfluorodecalin oil, suggesting that the exterior oil phase might not damage the cells during a brief exposure. The key to cell viability is the suitability of the colloidosomes surface; other methods of locking the particles together, such as avidin-biotin binding, may make the colloidosomes even more biocompatible.
Colloidosomes successfully meet many of the key requirements for encapsulation: Emulsification provides a simple means of producing capsules from a wide variety of fluids and with controlled sizes ranging from submicrometer to several millimetres. Furthermore, because the internal and external fluids remain completely separate until the final step, materials can be encapsulated efficiently with minimal loss. The choice of different colloidal particles allows for additional flexibility. We show that the permeability and rupture stress of the capsules can be controlled through the size of the coating particles and through post fabrication treatment by sintering or, alternatively, by further filling of the holes with smaller particles or polymers. A variety of release strategies may be feasible, either through control of their permeability for slow but sustained release, or through control of their rupture stress for shear-induced breakup. This flexibility will allow a wide range of potential applications to be explored.
It is believed that in the near future novel colloidosomes will be explored in the treatment or management of some other chronic and terminal disease conditions. Various technologies are researched and some are currently in the market. The global market for colloidosomes totalled $24 billion in 2012. The overall market is projected to be worth $25.7 billion by 2013 and $40.2 billion by 2018, a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for of 9.3% from 2013 to 2018.
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