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J Mater Chem B. 2019 Oct 9;7(39):5983-5991. doi: 10.1039/c9tb01202h.

A pH-sensitive polymer based precise tumor targeting strategy with reduced uptake of nanoparticles by non-cancerous cells.

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Cixi Institute of Biomedical Engineering, CAS Key Laboratory of Magnetic Materials and Devices, & Key Laboratory of Additive Manufacturing Materials of Zhejiang Province, Ningbo Institute of Materials Technology and Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ning-bo, Zhejiang 315201, China.


Drug-loaded nanoparticles can be specifically uptaken by tumor cells to realize active targeting due to the conjugated ligands or antibodies on their surface. However, some non-cancerous cells express non-specific receptors or antigens on their surface, which can react with the ligands or antibodies conjugated on the nanoparticle surface and then result in non-specific uptake of the nanoparticles by non-cancerous cells. In order to reduce the non-specific uptake of nanoparticles by non-cancerous cells, in this study, we proposed a pH-sensitive polymer based precise tumor targeting strategy and synthesized superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticle (SPION) encapsulated albumin nanoparticles (AN) with conjugation of folic acid (FA) and mPEG-DCA (SPION-AN-FA@mPEG), in which mPEG can shield FA, avoiding the non-specific recognition by normal cells under physiological conditions, and can be shed to expose FA in tumor microenvironments. The pH-sensitivity of mPEG-DCA was verified by HPLC characterization and 1H-NMR spectroscopy. The graft density and length of mPEG-DCA were optimized via the cellular uptake of SPION-AN-FA@mPEG measured by flow cytometry analysis. The r2 value and r2/r1 ratio of the optimized SPION-AN-FA@mPEG (i.e., SPION-AN-FA@mPEG4) are 168.6 mM-1 s-1 and 42.8, respectively, which are both much higher than that of the commercial contrast agent Resovist®. The in vitro T2-weighted MR images and in vivo MRI performance demonstrate that our SPION-AN-FA@mPEG4 nanoparticles can be used as an effective T2-weighted MRI contrast agent.


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