Synthesis of star polymers by RAFT polymerization as versatile nanoparticles for biomedical applications

Jinming Hu, Ruirui Qiao, Michael R. Whittaker, John F. Quinn, Thomas P. Davis

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The precise control of polymer chain architecture has been made possible by developments in polymer synthesis and conjugation chemistry. In particular, the synthesis of polymers in which at least three linear polymeric chains (or arms) are tethered to a central core has yielded a useful category of branched architecture, so-called star polymers. Fabrication of star polymers has traditionally been achieved using either a core-first technique or an arm-first approach. Recently, the ability to couple polymeric chain precursors onto a functionalized core via highly efficient coupling chemistry has provided a powerful new methodology for star synthesis. Star syntheses can be implemented using any of the living polymerization techniques using ionic or living radical intermediates. Consequently, there are innumerable routes to fabricate star polymers with varying chemical composition and arm numbers. In comparison with their linear counterparts, star polymers have unique characteristics such as low viscosity in solution, prolonged blood circulation, and high accumulation in tumour regions. These advantages mean that, far beyond their traditional application as rheology control agents, star polymers may also be useful in the medical and pharmaceutical sciences. In this account, we discuss recent advances made in our laboratory focused on star polymer research ranging from improvements in synthesis through to novel applications of the product materials. Specifically, we examine the core-first and arm-first preparation of stars using reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization. Further, we also discuss several biomedical applications of the resulting star polymers, particularly those made by the arm-first protocol. Emphasis is given to applications in the emerging area of nanomedicine, in particular to the use of star polymers for controlled delivery of chemotherapeutic agents, protein inhibitors, signalling molecules, and siRNA. Finally, we examine possible future developments for the technology and suggest the further work required to enable clinical applications of these interesting materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1161-1170
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Journal of Chemistry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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