PDMS-b-PMOXA polymersomes for hepatocyte targeting and assessment of toxicity

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Graphical abstractNanoparticles, such as polymersomes, can be directed to the hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptor to achieve targeted drug delivery. In this study, we prepared asialofetuin conjugated polymersomes based on the amphiphilic di-block copolymer poly(dimethylsiloxane)-b-poly(2-methyloxazoline) (PDMS-b-PMOXA). They had an average diameter of 150 nm and formed monodisperse vesicles. Drug encapsulation and sustained release was monitored using the hydrophilic model compound carboxyfluorescein. Asialoglycoprotein receptor specific uptake by HepG2 cells in vitro was energy dependent and could be competitively inhibited by the free targeting ligand. Mechanistic uptake studies revealed intracellular trafficking of asialofetuin conjugated polymersomes from early endosomes and to the lysosomal compartment. Polymersomes showed no toxicity in the MTT assay up to concentrations of 500 μg/mL. In addition, acute toxicity and tolerability of our PDMS-b-PMOXA polymersome formulations was assessed in vivo using zebrafish embryos as a vertebrate screening model. In conclusion, a hepatocyte specific drug delivery system was designed, which is safe and biocompatible and which can be used to implement liver-specific targeting strategies.

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