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Langmuir. 2012 Oct 23;28(42):15056-64. doi: 10.1021/la302903v. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Dual stimuli-responsive polymeric hollow nanogels designed as carriers for intracellular triggered drug release.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering and Environmental Sciences, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu 300, Taiwan.


Dual stimuli-responsive hollow nanogel spheres serving as an efficient intracellular drug delivery platform were obtained from the spontaneous coassociation of two graft copolymers into the vesicle architecture in aqueous phase. Both copolymers comprise acrylic acid (AAc) and 2-methacryloylethyl acrylate (MEA) units as the backbone and either poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm) alone or both PNIPAAm and monomethoxypoly(ethylene glycol) (mPEG) chain segments as the grafts. The assemblies were then subjected to covalent stabilization within vesicle walls with ester-containing cross-links by radical polymerization of MEA moieties, thereby leading to hollow nanogel particles. Taking the advantage of retaining a low quantity of payload within polymer layer-enclosed aqueous chambers through the entire loading process, doxorubicin (DOX) in the external bulk phase can be effectively transported into the gel membrane and bound therein via electrostatic interactions with ionized AAc residues and hydrogen-bond pairings with PNIPAAm grafts at pH 7.4. With the environmental pH being reduced (e.g., from 7.4 to 5.0) at 37 °C, the extensive disruption of AAc/DOX complexes due to the reduced ionization of AAc residues within the gel layer and the pronounced shrinkage of nanogels enable the rapid release of DOX species from drug-loaded hollow nanogels. By contrast, the drug liberation at 4 °C was severally restricted, particularly at pH 7.4 at which the DOX molecules remain strongly bound with ionized AAc residues and PNIPAAm grafts. The in vitro characterizations suggest that the DOX-loaded hollow nanogel particles after being internalized by HeLa cells via endocytosis can rapidly release the payload within acidic endosomes or lysosomes. This will then lead to significant drug accumulation in nuclei (within 1 h) and a cytotoxic effect comparable to free drug. This work demonstrates that the novel DOX-loaded hollow nanogel particles show great promise of therapeutic efficacy for potential anticancer treatment.

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