Functionalizing biodegradable dextran scaffolds using living radical polymerization: New versatile nanoparticles for the delivery of therapeutic molecules

Hien Thi Thu Duong, Felicity Hughes, Sharon M Sagnella, Maria Kavallaris, Alexander Macmillan, Renee Megan Whan, James Hook, Thomas Paul Davis, Cyrille Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Conferring biodegradability to nanoparticles is vitally important when nanomedicine applications are being targeted, as this prevents potential problems with bioaccumulation of byproducts after delivery. In this work, dextran has been modified (and rendered hydrophobic) by partial acetalation. A solid state NMR method was first developed to fully characterize the acetalated polymers. In a subsequent synthetic step, RAFT functionality was attached via residual unmodified hydroxyl groups. The RAFT groups were then used in a living free radical polymerization reaction to control the growth of hydrophilic PEG-methacrylate chains, thereby generating amphiphilic comblike polymers. The amphiphilic polymers were then self-assembled in water to form various morphologies, including small vesicles, wormlike rods, and micellar structures, with PEG at the periphery acting as a nonfouling biocompatible polymer layer. The acetalated dextran nanoparticles were designed for potential doxorubicin (DOX) delivery application based on the premise that in the cell compartments (endosome, lysozome) the acetalated dextran would hydrolyze, destroying the nanoparticle structure, releasing the encapsulated DOX. In-vitro studies confirmed minimal cytotoxicity of the (unloaded) nanoparticles, even after 3 days, proving that the hydrolysis products from the acetal groups (methanol and acetone) had no observable cytotoxic effect. An intriguing initial result is reported that in vitro studies of DOX-loaded dextran-nanoparticles (compared to free DOX) revealed an increased differential toxicity toward a cancer cell line when compared to a normal cell line. Efficient accumulation of DOX in a human neuroblastoma cell line (SY-5Y) was confirmed by both confocal microscopy and flow cytometry measurements. Furthermore, the time dependent release of DOX was monitored using fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) in SY-5Y live cells. FLIM revealed bimodal lifetime distributions, showing the accumulation of both DOX-loaded dextran-nanoparticles and subsequent release of DOX in the living cells. From FLIM data analysis, the amount of DOX released in SY-5Y cells was found to increase from 35 to 55 when the incubation time increased from 3 h to 24 h.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3046 - 3061
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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