Surface modification of ultra-small nanostructured lipid carriers (usNLC) via introduction of a positive charge is hypothesized to prompt site-specific drug delivery for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) treatment. A more effective interaction with negatively charged lipid bilayers, including the blood-brain barrier (BBB), will facilitate the nanoparticle access to the brain. For this purpose, usNLC with a particle size of 43.82 ± 0.03 nm and a polydispersity index of 0.224 were developed following a Quality by Design approach.
Monomeric and gemini surfactants, either with conventional headgroups or serine-based ones, were tested for the surface modification, and the respective safety and efficacy to target GBM evaluated. A comprehensive in silico-in vitro approach is also provided based on molecular dynamics simulations and cytotoxicity studies.
Overall, monomeric serine-derived surfactants displayed the best performance, considering altogether particle size, zeta potential, cytotoxic profile and cell uptake. Although conventional surfactants were able to produce usNLC with suitable physicochemical properties and cell uptake, their use is discouraged due to their high cytotoxicity. This study suggests that monomeric serine-derived surfactants are promising agents for developing nanosystems aiming at brain drug delivery.