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Acc Chem Res. 2011 Oct 18;44(10):990-8. doi: 10.1021/ar2000315. Epub 2011 Aug 2.

PRINT: a novel platform toward shape and size specific nanoparticle theranostics.

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Department of Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


Nanotheranostics represents the next generation of medicine, fusing nanotechnology, therapeutics, and diagnostics. By integrating therapeutic and imaging agents into one nanoparticle, this new treatment strategy has the potential not only to detect and diagnose disease but also to treat and monitor the therapeutic response. This capability could have a profound impact in both the research setting as well as in a clinical setting. In the research setting, such a capability will allow research scientists to rapidly assess the performance of new therapeutics in an effort to iterate their designs for increased therapeutic index and efficacy. In the clinical setting, theranostics offers the ability to determine whether patients enrolling in clinical trials are responding, or are expected to respond, to a given therapy based on the hypothesis associated with the biological mechanisms being tested. If not, patients can be more quickly removed from the clinical trial and shifted to other therapeutic options. To be effective, these theranostic agents must be highly site specific. Optimally, they will carry relevant cargo, demonstrate controlled release of that cargo, and include imaging probes with a high signal-to-noise ratio. There are many biological barriers in the human body that challenge the efficacy of nanoparticle delivery vehicles. These barriers include, but are not limited to, the walls of blood vessels, the physical entrapment of particles in organs, and the removal of particles by phagocytic cells. The rapid clearance of circulating particles during systemic delivery is a major challenge; current research seeks to define key design parameters that govern the performance of nanocarriers, such as size, surface chemistry, elasticity, and shape. The effect of particle size and surface chemistry on in vivo biodistribution of nanocarriers has been extensively studied, and general guidelines have been established. Recently it has been documented that shape and elasticity can have a profound effect on the behavior of delivery vehicles. Thus, having the ability to independently control shape, size, matrix, surface chemistry, and modulus is crucial for designing successful delivery agents. In this Account, we describe the use of particle replication in nonwetting templates (PRINT) to fabricate shape- and size-specific microparticles and nanoparticles. A particular strength of the PRINT method is that it affords precise control over shape, size, surface chemistry, and modulus. We have demonstrated the loading of PRINT particles with chemotherapeutics, magnetic resonance contrast agents, and fluorophores. The surface properties of the PRINT particles can be easily modified with "stealth" poly(ethylene glycol) chains to increase blood circulation time, with targeting moieties for targeted delivery or with radiolabels for nuclear imaging. These particles have tremendous potential for applications in nanomedicine and diagnostics.

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