Quantitative analysis of the phase transition mechanism underpinning the systemic self-assembly of a mechanopharmaceutical device

Steven Dunne, Andrew R. Willmer, Rosemary Swanson, Deepak Almeida, Nicole C. Ammerman, Kathleen A. Stringer, Edmund V. Capparelli, Gus R. Rosania

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Clofazimine (CFZ) is a poorly soluble, weakly basic, small molecule antibiotic clinically used to treat leprosy and is now in clinical trials as a treatment for multidrug resistant tuberculosis and COVID-19. CFZ exhibits complex, context-dependent pharmacokinetics that are characterized by an increasing half-life in long term treatment regimens. The systemic pharmacokinetics of CFZ have been previously represented by a nonlinear, 2-compartment model incorporating an expanding volume of distribution. This expansion reflects the soluble-to-insoluble phase transition that the drug undergoes as it precipitates out and accumulates within macrophages disseminated throughout the organism. Using mice as a model organism, we studied the mechanistic underpinnings of this increasing half-life and how the systemic pharmacokinetics of CFZ are altered with continued dosing. To this end, M. tuberculosis infection status and multiple dosing schemes were studied alongside a parameter sensitivity analysis (PSA) to further understanding of systemic drug distribution. Parameter values governing the sigmoidal expansion function that captures the phase transition were methodically varied, and in turn, the systemic concentrations of the drug were calculated and compared to the experimentally measured concentrations of drug in serum and spleen. The resulting amounts of drug sequestered were dependent on the total mass of CFZ administered and the duration of drug loading. This phenomenon can be captured by altering three different parameters of an expansion function corresponding to key biological determinants responsible for the precipitation and the accumulation of the insoluble drug mass in macrophages. Through this analysis of the context dependent pharmacokinetics of CFZ, a predictive framework for projecting the systemic distribution and self-assembly of precipitated drug complexes as intracellular mechanopharmaceutical devices of this and other drugs exhibiting similarly complex pharmacokinetics can be constructed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Drug delivery
  • Drug targeting
  • Modeling and simulation
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Small molecules
  • Tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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