Spray-freeze-drying for protein powder preparation

Spray-freeze-drying for protein powder preparation: particle characterization and a case study with trypsinogen stability

Sonner C, Maa YF, Lee G

This work investigates the use of spray freeze-drying (SFD) to produce protein loaded particles suitable for epidermal delivery. In the first part of the study, the effects of formulation and process conditions on particle properties are examined. Aqueous solutions of trehalose produce SFD particles in the size range 20-80 microm, with a smooth, textured surface, but having high internal porosity. The latter was visualized using SEM and a novel particle embedding and sectioning technique. Use of an annealing step during the freeze-drying cycle caused the particles to shrink, reducing hereby porosity and also the measured rate of moisture uptake into these amorphous particles. SFD pure mannitol was approximately 40% amorphous, but not hygroscopic. Incorporation of dextran 37,500 into a combined amorphous trehalose/mannitol formulation led to increased particle shrinkage and lower particle porosity on annealing. The model protein trypsinogen lost approximately 15% activity during SFD of solutions containing 50 mg/mL protein, but was only marginally aggregated (1.4%). It is suggested that trypsinogen forms an irreversible partially unfolded state or molten globule on SFD/rehydration. The pure protein was also partially inactivated without aggregation during atomization into air. Surprisingly, neither activity loss nor aggregation were detected on atomization of the protein solution into liquid nitrogen. Quench-freezing of small droplets may reverse the partial unfolding of trypsinogen occurring on atomization into air. The origin of the trypsinogen inactivation during SFD must therefore be the subsequent freeze-drying step of this multistep process. Isolated freeze drying of trypsinogen produces strong aggregation and equivalent inactivation. This result suggests that trypsinogen behaves differently during freeze drying from frozen droplets and from bulk solution in a vial. In the former case the protein forms an irreversible partially unfolded state, whereas in the latter case aggregates are formed. Trypsinogen inactivation during SFD could be completely prevented by the presence of trehalose in the formulation. Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis (ESCA) showed a high surface excess of the protein in the SFD particles, which was reduced on inclusion of Polysorbate 80, but not trehalose. Taken together, these results help to elucidate the complex destabilization behavior of trypsinogen during SFD.

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