AAPS PharmSciTech

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 2009–2022 | Cite as

Zein as a Pharmaceutical Excipient in Oral Solid Dosage Forms: State of the Art and Future Perspectives

  • Alberto BerardiEmail author
  • Lorina Bisharat
  • Hatim S. AlKhatib
  • Marco Cespi
Review Article


Zein is the main storage protein of corn and it has several industrial applications. Mainly in the last 10–15 years, zein has emerged as a potential pharmaceutical excipient with unique features. Zein is a natural, biocompatible and biodegradable material produced from renewable sources. It is insoluble, yet due to its amphiphilic nature, it has self-assembling properties, which have been exploited for the formation of micromicroparticle and nanoparticle and films. Moreover, zein can hydrate so it has been used in swellable matrices for controlled drug release. Other pharmaceutical applications of zein in oral drug delivery include its incorporation in solid dispersions of poorly soluble drugs and in colonic drug delivery systems. This review describes the features of zein significant for its use as a pharmaceutical excipient for oral drug delivery, and it summaries the literature relevant to macroscopic zein-based oral dosage forms, i.e. tablets, capsules, beads and powders. Particular attention is paid to the most novel formulations and applications of zein. Moreover, gaps of knowledge as well as possible venues for future investigations on zein are highlighted.


zein controlled release drug delivery polymer natural excipient 


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© American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmaceutics, Faculty of PharmacyApplied Science Private UniversityAmmanJordan
  2. 2.Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Technology, School of PharmacyThe University of JordanAmmanJordan
  3. 3.School of PharmacyUniversity of CamerinoCamerinoItaly

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