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Structure of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid). x= number of units of lactic acid; y= number of units of glycolic acid.
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PLGA or poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) is a copolymer which is used in a host of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved therapeutic devices, owing to its biodegradability and biocompatibility. PLGA is synthesized by means of random ring-opening co-polymerization of two different monomers, the cyclic dimers (1,4-dioxane-2,5-diones) of glycolic acid and lactic acid. Common catalysts used in the preparation of this polymer include tin(II) 2-ethylhexanoate, tin(II) alkoxides, or aluminum isopropoxide. During polymerization, successive monomeric units (of glycolic or lactic acid) are linked together in PLGA by ester linkages, thus yielding a linear, aliphatic polyester as a product.[1]

Depending on the ratio of lactide to glycolide used for the polymerization, different forms of PLGA can be obtained: these are usually identified in regard to the monomers' ratio used (e.g. PLGA 75:25 identifies a copolymer whose composition is 75% lactic acid and 25% glycolic acid). All PLGAs are amorphous rather than crystalline and show a glass transition temperature in the range of 40-60 °C. Unlike the homopolymers of lactic acid (polylactide) and glycolic acid (polyglycolide) which show poor solubilities, PLGA can be dissolved by a wide range of common solvents, including chlorinated solvents, tetrahydrofuran, acetone or ethyl acetate.

PLGA degrades by hydrolysis of its ester linkages in the presence of water. It has been shown that the time required for degradation of PLGA is related to the monomers' ratio used in production: the higher the content of glycolide units, the lower the time required for degradation. An exception to this rule is the copolymer with 50:50 monomers' ratio which exhibits the faster degradation (about two months). In addition, polymers that are end-capped with esters (as opposed to the free carboxylic acid) demonstrate longer degradation half-lives.[citation needed]

PLGA has been successful as a biodegradable polymer because it undergoes hydrolysis in the body to produce the original monomers, lactic acid and glycolic acid. These two monomers under normal physiological conditions, are by-products of various metabolic pathways in the body. Since the body effectively deals with the two monomers, there is minimal systemic toxicity associated with using PLGA for drug delivery or biomaterial applications. Also, the possibility to tailor the polymer degradation time by altering the ratio of the monomers used during synthesis has made PLGA a common choice in the production of a variety of biomedical devices, such as, grafts, sutures, implants, prosthetic devices, surgical sealant films, micro and nanoparticles. Specific examples of use include:


  1. ^ Astete, C. E. and Sabliov, C. M. (2006). "Synthesis and characterization of PLGA nanoparticles". Journal of Biomaterials Science - Polymer Edition 17 (3): 247–289. doi:10.1163/156856206775997322. PMID 16689015. 
  2. ^ "Dissolvable Plastic Nanofibers could Treat Brain Infections". Scientific Computing (Advantage Business Media). August 28, 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2013. 

See also[edit]

Other biodegradable polymers:

External links[edit]