Microfluidic methodologies for preparation of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) based on an organic solvent injection method enable precise size control of the LNPs. After preparation of LNPs, the organic solvent injection method needs some post-treatments, such as overnight dialysis or direct dilution with a buffer solution. LNP production using the microfluidic-based organic solvent injection method is dominated by kinetics rather than thermodynamics. Kinetics of ethanol removal from the inner and outer membranes of LNPs could induce a structural change in the membrane that could lead to fusion of LNPs. However, the effects of microfluidic post-treatment on the final size of LNPs have not been sufficiently understood. Herein, we investigated the effect of the post-treatment processes on the final product size of LNPs in detail. A simple baffle device and a model lipid system composed of a neutral phospholipid (1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, POPC) and cholesterol were used to produce the LNPs. We demonstrated that flow conditions of the post-treatment diluting the remaining ethanol in the LNP suspension affected the final product size of LNPs. Based on the findings, we developed an integrated baffle device composed of an LNP production region and a post-treatment region for a microfluidic-based LNP production system; this integrated baffle device prevented the undesirable aggregation or fusion of POPC LNPs even for the high-lipid-concentration condition. Finally, we applied our concept to small interfering RNA (siRNA) delivery and confirmed that no significant effects due to the continuous process occurred on the siRNA encapsulation efficiency, biological distribution, and knockdown activity. The microfluidic post-treatment method is expected to contribute to the production of LNPs for practical applications and the development of novel LNP-based nanomedicines.
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