Nanogels: An overview of properties, biomedical applications and obstacles to clinical translation

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Abstract

Nanogels have emerged as a versatile hydrophilic platform for encapsulation of guest molecules with a capability to respond to external stimuli that can be used for a multitude of applications. These are soft materials capable of holding small molecular therapeutics, biomacromolecules, and inorganic nanoparticles within their crosslinked networks, which allows them to find applications for therapy as well as imaging of a variety of disease conditions. Their stimuli-responsive behavior can be easily controlled by selection of constituent polymer and crosslinker components to achieve a desired response at the site of action, which imparts nanogels the ability to participate actively in the intended function of the carrier system rather than being passive carriers of their cargo. These properties not only enhance the functionality of the carrier system but also help in overcoming many of the challenges associated with the delivery of cargo molecules, and this review aims to highlight the distinct and unique capabilities of nanogels as carrier systems for the delivery of an array of cargo molecules over other nanomaterials. Despite their obvious usefulness, nanogels are still not a commonplace occurrence in clinical practice. We have also made an attempt to highlight some of the major challenges that need to be overcome to advance nanogels further in the field of biomedical applications.

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