Cholic acid micelles - Controlling the size of the aqueous cavity by PEGylation

F. Despa, J. T. Luo, J. Li, Y. Duan, K. S. Lam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Data show that cholic acid (CA) micelles are less densely packed and much smaller than micelles formed by typical surfactants, suggesting that CA derivatives can be used to synthesize drug nanocarriers. Presumably, the formation of internal cavities is favored by the facial characteristics of the CA molecule, i.e. the convex molecular structure that is hydrophobic on one side and hydrophilic on the other. Here, we present a thermodynamical approach to quantify the effect of facial characteristics on forces governing the self-assembling process of CA molecules. We show that facial characteristics favor the entrapment of water molecules at interfaces upon CA aggregation, which weakens the attraction between CA hydrophobic moieties. Our computer simulations suggest that these effects contribute significantly to the tendency of CA molecules to form small "hollow-core" micelles. The attachment of polyethylene glycol (PEG) molecular chains to CA increases the repulsive forces in the system, reducing even further the micelle size. We use the present molecular model and experimental critical micelle concentration (cmc) data for CA-PEGx4 systems to predict the change of the micelle size and cavity volume with the increase of the PEG chain length (x). Our computations indicate that the CA-PEG204 micelles are good candidates for drug delivery. The structural stability of CA-PEG204 micelles was further assessed by molecular dynamics simulations. We also tested the drug loading efficiency of this system and found an average of 0.5 mg paclitaxel load per 20 mg of CA-PEG204 polymer. The present study helps to identify critical parameters that control structural properties of the CA based nanocarriers and suggests practical means to optimize the ratio between micelle size and volume of the internal cavity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1589-1594
Number of pages6
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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