Functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes: cellular uptake, biodistribution and applications in drug delivery

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The unique properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) enable them to play important roles in many fields. One of their functional roles is to transport cargo into cell. SWNTs are able to traverse amphipathic cell membranes due to their large surface area, flexible interactions with cargo, customizable dimensions, and surface chemistry. The cargoes delivered by SWNTs include peptides, proteins, nucleic acids, as well as drug molecules for therapeutic purpose. The drug delivery functions of SWNTs have been explored over the past decade. Many breakthrough studies have shown the high specificity and potency of functionalized SWNT-based drug delivery systems for the treatment of cancers and other diseases. In this review, we discuss different aspects of drug delivery by functionalized SWNT carriers, diving into the cellular uptake mechanisms, biodistribution of the delivery system, and safety concerns on degradation of the carriers. We emphasize the delivery of several common drugs to highlight the recent achievements of SWNT-based drug delivery.

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