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Acc Chem Res. 2011 Oct 18;44(10):1039-49. doi: 10.1021/ar200036k. Epub 2011 May 24.

Polymeric vesicles: from drug carriers to nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 80, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


One strategy in modern medicine is the development of new platforms that combine multifunctional compounds with stable, safe carriers in patient-oriented therapeutic strategies. The simultaneous detection and treatment of pathological events through interactions manipulated at the molecular level offer treatment strategies that can decrease side effects resulting from conventional therapeutic approaches. Several types of nanocarriers have been proposed for biomedical purposes, including inorganic nanoparticles, lipid aggregates, including liposomes, and synthetic polymeric systems, such as vesicles, micelles, or nanotubes. Polymeric vesicles--structures similar to lipid vesicles but created using synthetic block copolymers--represent an excellent candidate for new nanocarriers for medical applications. These structures are more stable than liposomes but retain their low immunogenicity. Significant efforts have been made to improve the size, membrane flexibility, and permeability of polymeric vesicles and to enhance their target specificity. The optimization of these properties will allow researchers to design smart compartments that can co-encapsulate sensitive molecules, such as RNA, enzymes, and proteins, and their membranes allow insertion of membrane proteins rather than simply serving as passive carriers. In this Account, we illustrate the advances that are shifting these molecular systems from simple polymeric carriers to smart-complex protein-polymer assemblies, such as nanoreactors or synthetic organelles. Polymeric vesicles generated by the self-assembly of amphiphilic copolymers (polymersomes) offer the advantage of simultaneous encapsulation of hydrophilic compounds in their aqueous cavities and the insertion of fragile, hydrophobic compounds in their membranes. This strategy has permitted us and others to design and develop new systems such as nanoreactors and artificial organelles in which active compounds are simultaneously protected and allowed to act in situ. In recent years, we have created a variety of multifunctional, proteinpolymersomes combinations for biomedical applications. The insertion of membrane proteins or biopores into the polymer membrane supported the activity of co-encapsulated enzymes that act in tandem inside the cavity or of combinations of drugs and imaging agents. Surface functionalization of these nanocarriers permitted specific targeting of the desired biological compartments. Polymeric vesicles alone are relatively easy to prepare and functionalize. Those features, along with their stability and multifunctionality, promote their use in the development of new theranostic strategies. The combination of polymer vesicles and biological entities will serve as tools to improve the observation and treatment of pathological events and the overall condition of the patient.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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