Multifunctional pH-sensitive superparamagnetic iron-oxide nanocomposites for targeted drug delivery and MR imaging

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A multifunctional pH-sensitive superparamagnetic iron-oxide (SPIO) nanocomposite system was developed for simultaneous tumor magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and therapy. Small-size SPIO nanoparticles were chemically bonded with antitumor drug doxorubicin (DOX) and biocompatible poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) through pH-sensitive acylhydrazone linkages, resulting in the formation of SPIO nanocomposites with magnetic targeting and pH-sensitive properties. These DOX-conjugated SPIO nanocomposites exhibited not only good stability in aqueous solution but also high saturation magnetizations. Under an acidic environment, the DOX was quickly released from the SPIO nanocomposites due to the cleavage of pH-sensitive acylhydrazone linkages. With the help of magnetic field, the DOX-conjugated SPIO nanocomposites showed high cellular uptake, indicating their magnetic targeting property. Comparing to free DOX, the DOX-conjugated SPIO nanocomposites showed better antitumor effect under magnetic field. At the same time, the relaxivity value of these SPIO nanocomposites was higher than 146 s−1 mM−1 Fe, leading to ˜4 times enhancement compared to that of free SPIO nanoparticles. As a negative contrast agent, these SPIO nanocomposites illustrated high resolution in MRI diagnosis of tumor-bearing mice. All of these results confirm that these pH-sensitive SPIO nanocomposites are promising hybrid materials for synergistic MRI diagnosis and tumor therapy.Graphical abstractA multifunctional SPIO nanocomposite system with long circulation, magnetic targeting, controlled release and MRI was successfully constructed. It is a brand new hybrid material for synergistic MRI diagnosis and tumor therapy.

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