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Title: Liposome  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Lipid bilayer, Nanomedicine, Nanoparticle, Lipofection, Drug delivery
Collection: Dosage Forms, Drug Delivery Devices, Membrane Biology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Scheme of a liposome formed by phospholipids in an aqueous solution.
Liposomes are composite structures made of phospholipids and may contain small amounts of other molecules. Though liposomes can vary in size from low micrometer range to tens of micrometers, unilamellar liposomes, as pictured here, are typically in the lower size range with various targeting ligands attached to their surface allowing for their surface-attachment and accumulation in pathological areas for treatment of disease.[1]

A liposome is a manmade spherical vesicle having at least one lipid bilayer. The liposome can be used as a vehicle for administration of nutrients and pharmaceutical drugs.[2] Liposomes can be prepared by disrupting biological membranes (such as by sonication).

Liposomes are most often composed of phospholipids, especially phosphatidylcholine, but may also include other lipids, such as egg phosphatidylethanolamine, so long as they are compatible with lipid bilayer structure.[3] A liposome design may employ surface ligands for attaching to unhealthy tissue.[1]

The major types of liposomes are the multilamellar vesicle (MLV, with several lamellar phase lipid bilayers), the small unilamellar liposome vesicle (SUV, with one lipid bilayer), the large unilamellar vesicle (LUV), and the cochleate vesicle.[4] A less desirable form are multivesicular liposomes in which one vesicle contains one or more smaller vesicles.

Liposomes should not be confused with micelles and reverse micelles composed of monolayers.[5]


  • Discovery 1
  • Mechanism 2
    • List of drugs 2.1
  • Dietary and nutritional supplements 3
  • Manufacturing 4
  • Prospect 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The word liposome derives from two Greek words: lipo ("fat") and soma ("body"); it is so named because its composition is primarily of phospholipid.

Liposomes were first described by British haematologist

  • Controlled Release Society
  • Journal of Liposome Research
  • FormuMax Scientific Inc - a leading liposome product and service provider
  • How to Make High Quality Liposomal Vitamin C

External links

  1. ^ a b Torchilin, V (2006). "Multifunctional nanocarriers". Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 58 (14): 1532–55.  
  2. ^ Kimball's Biology Pages, "Cell Membranes."
  3. ^ a b c Cevc, G (1993). "Rational design of new product candidates: the next generation of highly deformable bilayer vesicles for noninvasive, targeted therapy.". Journal of Controlled Release, 160 (2): 135–146.  
  4. ^ Explanation on commercial page, cf. also Int.Patent PCT/US2008/074543 on p.4, section 0014
  5. ^ a b Stryer S. (1981) Biochemistry, 213
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Horne, R. W.;  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Bangham, A.D., Standish, M.M. and Weissmann, G., The action of steroids and streptolysin S on the permeability of phospholipid structures to cations, J. Molecular Biol., 13:253-259, 1965
  10. ^ Sessa, G. and Weissmann, G., Incorporation of lysozyme into liposomes: A model for structure-linked latency, J. Biol. Chem., 245:3295-3301, 1970
  11. ^ YashRoy R.C. (1990) Lamellar dispersion and phase separation of chloroplast membrane lipids by negative staining electron microscopy. Journal of Biosciences, vol 15(2), pp. 93-98.
  12. ^ G. Weissmann, G. Sessa, M. Standish and A. D. Bangham, J. Clin. Invest., 1965, 44, 1109–1116
  13. ^ Geoff Watts (2010-06-12). "Alec Douglas Bangham". The Lancet 375 (9731): 2070.  
  14. ^ Cevc, G; Richardsen, H (1993). "Lipid vesicles and membrane fusion.". Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 38 (3): 207–232. 
  15. ^ a b Barenholz, Y; G, Cevc (2000).  
  16. ^ Bertrand, Nicolas; Bouvet, CéLine; Moreau, Pierre; Leroux, Jean-Christophe (2010). "Transmembrane pH-Gradient Liposomes to Treat Cardiovascular Drug Intoxication". ACS Nano 4 (12): 7552–8.  
  17. ^ Barani, H; Montazer, M (2008). "A review on applications of liposomes in textile processing". Journal of liposome research 18 (3): 249–62.  
  18. ^ Meure, LA; Knott, R; Foster, NR; Dehghani, F (2009). "The depressurization of an expanded solution into aqueous media for the bulk production of liposomes". Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids 25 (1): 326–37.  
  19. ^ Yoko Shojia, Hideki Nakashima (2004). "Nutraceutics and Delivery Systems". Journal of Drug Targeting. 
  20. ^ Williamson, G; Manach, C (2005). "Bioavailability and bioefficacy of polyphenols in humans. II. Review of 93 intervention studies". The American journal of clinical nutrition 81 (1 Suppl): 243S–255S.  
  21. ^ Bender, David A. (2003). Nutritional Biochemistry of Vitamins. Cambridge, U.K. 
  22. ^ Szoka Jr, F; Papahadjopoulos, D (1980). "Comparative properties and methods of preparation of lipid vesicles (liposomes)". Annual review of biophysics and bioengineering 9: 467–508.  
  23. ^ Chaize, B; Colletier, JP; Winterhalter, M; Fournier, D (2004). "Encapsulation of enzymes in liposomes: High encapsulation efficiency and control of substrate permeability". Artificial cells, blood substitutes, and immobilization biotechnology 32 (1): 67–75.  
  24. ^ Gomezhens, A; Fernandezromero, J (2006). "Analytical methods for the control of liposomal delivery systems". TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry 25 (2): 167.  
  25. ^ Mozafari, MR; Johnson, C; Hatziantoniou, S; Demetzos, C (2008). "Nanoliposomes and their applications in food nanotechnology". Journal of liposome research 18 (4): 309–27.  
  26. ^ Colas, JC; Shi, W; Rao, VS; Omri, A; Mozafari, MR; Singh, H (2007). "Microscopical investigations of nisin-loaded nanoliposomes prepared by Mozafari method and their bacterial targeting". Micron (Oxford, England : 1993) 38 (8): 841–7.  
  27. ^ Blume, G; Cevc, G (1990). "Liposomes for the sustained drug release in vivo.". Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1029 (1): 92–97. 
  28. ^ Klibanov, AL; Maruyama, K; Torchilin, VP; Huang, L (1990). "Amphipathic polyethyleneglycols effectively prolong the circulation time of liposomes.". FEBS letters 268 (1): 235–237. 
  29. ^ Blume, G; Cevc, G; Crommelin, M D A J; Bakker-Woudenberg, I A J M; Kluft, C; Storm, G (1993). "Specific targeting with poly (ethylene glycol)-modified liposomes: coupling of homing devices to the ends of the polymeric chains combines effective target binding with long circulation times.". Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Biomembranes 1149 (1): 180–184. 
  30. ^ Cevc, G (2004). "Lipid vesicles and other colloids as drug carriers on the skin.". Advanced drug delivery reviews 56 (5): 675–711. 


See also

In case of tumor development, certain anticancer drugs such as doxorubicin (Doxil) and daunorubicin are provided through liposomes. Liposomal cisplatin has received orphan drug designation for pancreatic cancer from EMEA.

Further advances in liposome research have been able to allow liposomes to avoid detection by the body's immune system, specifically, the cells of reticuloendothelial system (RES). These liposomes are known as "stealth liposomes". They were first proposed by G. Cevc and G. Blume[27] and, independently and soon thereafter, the groups of L. Huang and V. Torchilin[28] and are constructed with PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) studding the outside of the membrane. The PEG coating, which is inert in the body, allows for longer circulatory life for the drug delivery mechanism. However, research currently seeks to investigate at what amount of PEG coating the PEG actually hinders binding of the liposome to the delivery site. In addition to a PEG coating, most stealth liposomes also have some sort of biological species attached as a ligand to the liposome, to enable bind via a specific expression on the targeted drug delivery site. These targeting ligands could be monoclonal antibodies (making an immunoliposome), vitamins, or specific antigens, but must be accessible.[29] Targeted liposomes can target nearly any cell type in the body and deliver drugs that would naturally be systemically delivered. Naturally toxic drugs can be much less toxic if delivered only to diseased tissues. Polymersomes, morphologically related to liposomes, can also be used this way. Also morphologically related to liposomes are highly deformable vesicles, designed for non-invasive transdermal material delivery, known as Transfersomes.[30]


Liposomes can hence be created by sonicating a dispersion of amphipatic lipids, such as phospholipids, in water.[5] Low shear rates create multilamellar liposomes. The original aggregates, which have many layers like an onion, thereby form progressively smaller and finally unilamellar liposomes (which are often unstable, owing to their small size and the sonication-created defects). Sonication is generally considered a "gross" method of preparation as it can damage the structure of the drug to be encapsulated. Newer methods such as extrusion and Mozafari method [26] are employed to produce materials for human use. Using lipids other than phosphatidylcholine can greatly facilitate liposome preparation.[3]

Useful liposomes rarely form spontaneously. They typically form after supplying enough energy to a dispersion of (phospho)lipids in a polar solvent, such as water, to break down multilamellar aggregates into oligo- or unilamellar bilayer vesicles.[3][15]

  1. the physicochemical characteristics of the material to be entrapped and those of the liposomal ingredients;
  2. the nature of the medium in which the lipid vesicles are dispersed
  3. the effective concentration of the entrapped substance and its potential toxicity;
  4. additional processes involved during application/delivery of the vesicles;
  5. optimum size, polydispersity and shelf-life of the vesicles for the intended application; and,
  6. batch-to-batch reproducibility and possibility of large-scale production of safe and efficient liposomal products

The choice of liposome preparation method depends, i.a., on the following parameters:[24][25]


It is important to note that certain influential factors have far reaching effects on the percentage of liposome that are yielded in manufacturing.[22] These influences also have an effect on the actual amount of realized liposome entrapment and the actual quality of the liposomes themselves. These are very crucial elements which lead to the long term stability of the liposomes. These complex yet significant factors are the following: (1) The actual manufacturing method and preparation of the liposomes themselves; (2) The constitution, quality, and type of raw phospholipid used in the formulation and manufacturing of the liposomes; (3) The ability to create homogeneous liposome particle sizes that are stable and hold their encapsulated payload. These primary and key elements comprise the foundation of an effective liposome carrier for use in increasing the bioavailability of oral dosages of dietary and nutritional supplements.[23]

A very small number of dietary and nutritional supplement companies are currently pioneering the benefits of this unique science towards this new application. This new direction and employment of liposome science is in part due to the low absorption and bioavailability rates of traditional oral dietary and nutritional tablets and capsules. The low oral bioavailability and absorption of many nutrients is clinically well documented.[20] Therefore the natural encapsulation of lypophilic and hydrophilic nutrients within liposomes has made for a very effective method of bypassing the destructive elements of the gastric system and aiding the encapsulated nutrient to be delivered to the cells and tissues.[21]

Regarding the use of liposomes as a carrier of dietary and nutritional supplements; until very recently the use of liposomes were primarily directed at targeted drug delivery. However, the versatile abilities of liposomes are now being discovered in other settings. Liposomes are presently being cleverly implemented for the specific oral delivery of certain dietary and nutritional supplements.[19]

Dietary and nutritional supplements

Name Trade name Company Indication Liposomal Excipients
Liposomal amphotericin B Abelcet Enzon Fungal infections DMPC and DMPG
Liposomal amphotericin B Ambisome Gilead Sciences Fungal and protozoal infections HSPC, Cholesterol, DSPG
Liposomal cytarabine Depocyt Pacira (formerly SkyePharma) Malignant lymphomatous meningitis DOPC, Cholesterol, DPPG
Liposomal daunorubicin DaunoXome Gilead Sciences HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma DSPC, Cholesterol
Liposomal doxorubicin Myocet Zeneus Combination therapy with cyclophosphamide in metastatic breast cancer LIPOVA-E120, Cholesterol
Liposomal IRIV vaccine Epaxal Crucell Hepatitis A LECIVA-S70
Liposomal IRIV vaccine Inflexal V Berna Biotech Influenza LECIVA-S90
Liposomal morphine DepoDur SkyePharma, Endo Postsurgical analgesia DOPC, Cholesterol, DPPG
Liposomal verteporfin Visudyne QLT, Novartis Age-related macular degeneration, pathologic myopia, ocular histoplasmosis Egg PG, DMPC
Liposome-proteins SP-B and SP-C Curosurf Chiesi Farmaceutici, S.p.A. pulmonary surfactant for Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) Leciva-S90
Liposome-PEG doxorubicin Doxil/Caelyx Ortho Biotech, Schering-Plough HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma, metastatic breast cancer, metastatic ovarian cancer MPEG-DSPE, HSPC, Cholesterol
Micellular estradiol Estrasorb Novavax Menopausal therapy Soybean oil, Polysorbate80
Liposomal vincristine Marqibo Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and Melanoma Cholesterol and egg sphingomyelin
Liposome-PEG doxorubicin Lipo-Dox TTY BIOPHARM HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma, metastatic breast cancer, metastatic ovarian cancer, Multiple Myeloma MPEG-DSPE, DSPC, Cholesterol
List of clinically approved liposomal drugs

As of 2012, 13 drugs with liposomal delivery systems have been approved and five additional liposomal drugs were in clinical trials.

List of drugs

Liposomes are also used as outer shells of some microbubble contrast agents used in contrast-enhanced ultrasound.

In addition to gene and drug delivery applications, liposomes can be used as carriers for the delivery of dyes to textiles,[17] pesticides to plants, enzymes and nutritional supplements to foods, and cosmetics to the skin.[18]

The use of liposomes for transformation or transfection of DNA into a host cell is known as lipofection.

A similar approach can be exploited in the biodetoxification of drugs by injecting empty liposomes with a transmembrane pH gradient. In this case the vesicles act as sinks to scavenge the drug in the blood circulation and prevent its toxic effect.[16] Another strategy for liposome drug delivery is to target endocytosis events. Liposomes can be made in a particular size range that makes them viable targets for natural macrophage phagocytosis. These liposomes may be digested while in the macrophage's phagosome, thus releasing its drug. Liposomes can also be decorated with opsonins and ligands to activate endocytosis in other cell types.

Liposomes are used as models for artificial cells. Liposomes can also be designed to deliver drugs in other ways. Liposomes that contain low (or high) pH can be constructed such that dissolved aqueous drugs will be charged in solution (i.e., the pH is outside the drug's pI range). As the pH naturally neutralizes within the liposome (protons can pass through some membranes), the drug will also be neutralized, allowing it to freely pass through a membrane. These liposomes work to deliver drug by diffusion rather than by direct cell fusion.

A liposome has an aqueous solution core surrounded by a hydrophobic membrane, in the form of a lipid bilayer; hydrophilic solutes dissolved in the core cannot readily pass through the bilayer. Hydrophobic chemicals associate with the bilayer. A liposome can be hence loaded with hydrophobic and/or and hydrophilic molecules. To deliver the molecules to a site of action, the lipid bilayer can fuse with other bilayers such as the cell membrane, thus delivering the liposome contents; this is a complex and non-spontaneous event, however.[14] By preparing liposomes in a solution of DNA or drugs (which would normally be unable to diffuse through the membrane) they can be (indiscriminately) delivered past the lipid bilayer, but are then typically distributed non-homogeneously.[15]


Alec Douglas Bangham with colleagues Jeff Watkins and Malcolm Standish wrote the 1965 paper that effectively launched the liposome “industry”. Around this time he was joined at Babraham by Gerald Weissmann, an American physician with an interest in lysosomes. Now an emeritus professor at New York University School of Medicine, Weissmann recalls the two of them sitting in a Cambridge pub and reflecting on the role of lipid sheets in separating the interior of the cell from the exterior milieu. This insight, they felt, was to cell function what the discovery of the double helix had been to genetics. Bangham had called his lipid structures “multilamellar smectic mesophases” or sometimes “Banghasomes”. It was Weissmann who proposed the more user-friendly term liposome.[12][13]

[11] Liposomes can be easily distinguished from micelles and hexagonal lipid phases by negative staining transmission electron microscopy.[10]

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