Amphiphilic block copolymers are widely utilized in the design of formulations owing to their unique physicochemical properties, flexible structures and functional chemistry. Amphiphilic polymeric micelles (APMs) formed from such copolymers have gained attention of the drug delivery scientists in past few decades for enhancing the bioavailability of lipophilic drugs, molecular targeting, sustained release, stimuli-responsive properties, enhanced therapeutic efficacy and reducing drug associated toxicity. Their properties including ease of surface modification, high surface area, small size, and enhanced permeation as well as retention (EPR) effect are mainly responsible for their utilization in the diagnosis and therapy of various diseases. However, some of the challenges associated with their use are premature drug release, low drug loading capacity, scale-up issues and their poor stability that need to be addressed for their wider clinical utility and commercialization. This review describes comprehensively their physicochemical properties, various methods of preparation, limitations followed by approaches employed for the development of optimized APMs, the impact of each preparation technique on the physicochemical properties of the resulting APMs as well as various biomedical applications of APMs. Based on the current scenario of their use in treatment and diagnosis of diseases, the directions in which future studies need to be carried out to explore their full potential are also discussed.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.