- Polyethylene glycol
Polyethylene glycol Identifiers CAS number ChEMBL Properties Molecular formula C2nH4n+2On+1 Molar mass variable Hazards Flash point 182 - 287 °C (what is: /?)
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a polyether compound with many applications from industrial manufacturing to medicine. It has also been known as polyethylene oxide (PEO) or polyoxyethylene (POE), depending on its molecular weight, and under the tradename Carbowax.
PEG, PEO, or POE refers to an oligomer or polymer of ethylene oxide. The three names are chemically synonymous, but historically PEG has tended to refer to oligomers and polymers with a molecular mass below 20,000 g/mol, PEO to polymers with a molecular mass above 20,000 g/mol, and POE to a polymer of any molecular mass. PEG and PEO are liquids or low-melting solids, depending on their molecular weights. PEGs are prepared by polymerization of ethylene oxide and are commercially available over a wide range of molecular weights from 300 g/mol to 10,000,000 g/mol. While PEG and PEO with different molecular weights find use in different applications and have different physical properties (e.g., viscosity) due to chain length effects, their chemical properties are nearly identical. Different forms of PEG are also available dependent on the initiator used for the polymerization process, the most common of which is a monofunctional methyl ether PEG (methoxypoly(ethylene glycol)), abbreviated mPEG. Lower-molecular-weight PEGs are also available as purer oligomers, referred to as monodisperse, uniform or discrete. Very high purity PEG has recently been shown to be crystalline, allowing determination of a xray crystal structure. Since purification and separation of pure oligomers is difficult, the price for this type of quality is often 10-1000 fold that of polydisperse PEG. PEGs are also available with different geometries. Branched PEGs have three to ten PEG chains emanating from a central core group. Star PEGs have 10–100 PEG chains emanating from a central core group. Comb PEGs have multiple PEG chains normally grafted to a polymer backbone.
Their melting points vary depending on the Formula Weight of the polymer. PEG or PEO has the following structure:
The numbers that are often included in the names of PEGs indicate their average molecular weights, e.g., a PEG with n=9 would have an average molecular weight of approximately 400 daltons and would be labeled PEG 400. Most PEGs include molecules with a distribution of molecular weights; i.e., they are polydisperse. The size distribution can be characterized statistically by its weight average molecular weight (Mw) and its number average molecular weight (Mn), the ratio of which is called the polydispersity index (Mw/Mn). Mw and Mn can be measured by mass spectrometry.
PEGylation is the act of covalently coupling a PEG structure to another larger molecule, for example, a therapeutic protein (which is then referred to as PEGylated). PEGylated interferon alfa-2a or -2b is a commonly used injectable treatment for Hepatitis C infection.
PEGs and methoxypolyethylene glycols are manufactured by Dow Chemical under the tradename Carbowax for industrial use and Carbowax Sentry for food and pharmaceutical use. They vary in consistency from liquid to solid, depending on the molecular weight, indicated by a number following the name. They are used in industry as surfactants, including foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceutics; in biomedicine, as dispersing agents, solvents, ointment, and suppository bases; as tablet excipients; and as laxatives. Some specific groups are lauromacrogols, nonoxynols, octoxynols and poloxamers.
Polyethylene glycol is produced by the interaction of ethylene oxide with water, ethylene glycol, or ethylene glycol oligomers. The reaction is catalyzed by acidic or basic catalysts. Ethylene glycol and its oligomers are preferable as a starting material instead of water, because they allow the creation of polymers with a low polydispersity (narrow molecular weight distribution). Polymer chain length depends on the ratio of reactants.
- HOCH2CH2OH + n(CH2CH2O) → HO(CH2CH2O)n+1H
Depending on the catalyst type, the mechanism of polymerization can be cationic or anionic. The anionic mechanism is preferable because it allows one to obtain PEG with a low polydispersity. Polymerization of ethylene oxide is an exothermic process. Overheating or contaminating ethylene oxide with catalysts such as alkalis or metal oxides can lead to runaway polymerization, which can end with an explosion after a few hours.
Polyethylene oxide or high-molecular polyethylene glycol is synthesized by suspension polymerization. It is necessary to hold the growing polymer chain in solution in the course of the polycondensation process. The reaction is catalyzed by magnesium-, aluminium-, or calcium-organoelement compounds. To prevent coagulation of polymer chains from solution, chelating additives such as dimethylglyoxime are used.
It is the basis of a number of laxatives (e.g., macrogol-containing products such as Movicol and polyethylene glycol 3350, or SoftLax, MiraLAX or GlycoLax). Whole bowel irrigation (polyethylene glycol with added electrolytes) is used for bowel preparation before surgery or colonoscopy. It is sold under the brand names GoLYTELY, GaviLyte-C, NuLytely, GlycoLax, Fortrans, TriLyte, Colyte, Halflytely, Softlax, ClearLax and MoviPrep. In the United States, MiraLAX and Dulcolax Balance are sold without prescription for short term relief of chronic constipation, although there is now growing consensus in the medical community that these medications can be taken indefinitely to treat chronic constipation. A 2007 comparison showed that patients suffering from constipation had a better response to these two medications than to tegaserod.
When attached to various protein medications, polyethylene glycol allows a slowed clearance of the carried protein from the blood. This makes for a longer-acting medicinal effect and reduces toxicity, and it allows longer dosing intervals. Examples include PEG-interferon alpha, which is used to treat hepatitis C, and PEGfilgrastim (Neulasta), which is used to treat neutropenia. It has been shown that polyethylene glycol can improve healing of spinal injuries in dogs. One of the earlier findings that polyethylene glycol can aid in nerve repair came from the University of Texas (Krause and Bittner). Polyethylene glycol is commonly used to fuse B-cells with myeloma cells in monoclonal antibody production.
PEG is used as an excipient in pharmaceutical products. Lower-molecular-weight variants are used as solvents in oral liquids and soft capsules, whereas solid variants are used as ointment bases, tablet binders, film coatings, and lubricants.
PEG is also used in lubricant eye drops.
Research for new clinical uses
- PEG when labeled with a near-infrared fluorophore has been used in preclinical work as a vascular agent, lymphatic agent, and general tumor-imaging agent by exploiting the Enhanced permeability and retention effect (EPR) of tumors.
- High-molecular-weight PEG, e.g., PEG 8000, has been shown to be a dietary preventive agent against colorectal cancer in animal models.
The Chemoprevention Database shows it is the most effective agent to suppress chemical carcinogenesis in rats. Cancer prevention in humans has not yet been tested in clinical trials.
- The injection of PEG 2000 into the bloodstream of guinea pigs after spinal cord injury leads to rapid recovery through molecular repair of nerve membranes. The effectiveness of this treatment to prevent paraplegia in humans after an accident is not known yet.
- Research is being done in the use of PEG to mask antigens on red blood cells. Various research institutes have reported that using PEG can mask antigens without damaging the functions and shape of the cell.
- Research is also being done on the use of PEG in the field of gene therapy.
PEG is being used in the repair of motor neurons damaged in crush or laceration incidents in vivo and in vitro. When coupled with melatonin, 75% of damaged sciatic nerves were rendered viable.
It is the basis of many skin creams, as cetomacrogol, and sexual lubricants, frequently combined with glycerin.
PEG is used in a number of toothpastes as a dispersant; it binds water and helps keep Xanthan gum uniformly distributed throughout the toothpaste. It is also under investigation for use in body armor and tattoos to monitor diabetes.
PEG is a commonly used as precipitant for plasmid DNA isolation and protein crystallization. X-ray diffraction of protein crystals can reveal the atomic structure of proteins.
Since PEG is a flexible, water-soluble polymer, it can be used to create very high osmotic pressures (tens of atmospheres). It also is unlikely to have specific interactions with biological chemicals. These properties make PEG one of the most useful molecules for applying osmotic pressure in biochemistry experiments, in particular when using the osmotic stress technique.
PEO (polyethylene oxide) can serve as the separator and electrolyte solvent in lithium polymer cells. Its low diffusivity often requires high temperatures of operation, but its high viscosity even near its melting point allows very thin electrolyte layers. While crystallization of the polymer can degrade performance, many of the salts used to carry charge can also serve as a kinetic barrier to the formation of crystals. Such batteries carry greater energy for their weight than other lithium ion battery technologies.
When working with phenol in a laboratory situation, PEG 300 can be used on phenol skin burns to deactivate any residual phenol.
Polyethylene glycol is also commonly used as a polar stationary phase for gas chromatography, as well as a heat transfer fluid in electronic testers.
PEG is also one of the main ingredients in Paintball fill because it is thick and flexible. However, as early as 2006, some Paintball manufacturers have been substituting cheaper alternatives for PEG.
PEG has also been used to preserve objects that have been salvaged from underwater, as was the case with the warship Vasa in Stockholm, the Mary Rose in England and the Ma'agan Michael Ship in Israel. It replaces water in wooden objects, which makes the wood dimensionally stable and prevents warping or shrinking of the wood when it dries. In addition, PEG is used when working with green wood as a stabilizer and to prevent shrinkage.
PEG is often used (as an internal calibration compound) in mass spectrometry experiments, with a characteristic fragmentation pattern.
In the field of microbiology, PEG precipitation is used to concentrate viruses. PEG is also used to induce complete fusion (mixing of both inner and outer leaflets) in liposomes reconstituted in vitro.
Dimethyl ethers of PEG are the key ingredient of Selexol, a solvent used by coal-burning, integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants to remove carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide from the gas waste stream.
Gene therapy vectors (such as viruses) can be PEG-coated to shield them from inactivation by the immune system and to de-target them from organs where they may build up and have a toxic effect. The size of the PEG polymer has been shown to be important, with large polymers achieving the best immune protection.
PEG is also used as a polymer host for solid polymer electrolytes. Although not yet in commercial production, many groups around the globe are engaged in research in solid polymer electrolytes involving PEG, with the aim of improving their properties, permitting their use in batteries, electro-chromic display systems and other products in the future.
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