Muco-adhesive drug delivery systems continue to be one of the most studied for controlled pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Briefly, muco-adhesive polymers, can be described as bio-polymers that adhere to the mucosal (mucus) surface layer, for an extended residency period of time at the site of application, by the help of interfacial forces resulting in improved drug delivery. When compared to traditional drug delivery systems, muco-adhesive carriers have the potential to enhance therapeutic performance and efficacy, locally and systematically, in oral, rectal, vaginal, amongst other routes. Yet, the achieving successful muco-adhesion in a novel polymeric drug delivery solution is a complex process involving key physico-chemico-mechanical parameters such as adsorption, wettability, polymer chain length, inter-penetration and cross-linking, to list a few. Hence, and in light of accruing progress, evidence and interest, during the last decade, this review aims to provide the reader with an overview of the theories, principles, properties, and underlying mechanisms of muco-adhesive polymers for pharmaceutics; from basics to design to characterization to optimization to evaluation to market. A special focus is devoted to recent advances incorporating bio-inspired polymers for designing controlled muco-adhesive drug delivery systems.
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