Light-switchable systems for remotely controlled drug delivery
Light-switchable systems have recently received attention as a new mode of remotely controlled drug delivery. In the past, a multitude of nanomedicine studies have sought to enhance the specificity of drug delivery to target sites by focusing on receptors overexpressed on malignant cells or environmental features of diseases sites. Despite these immense efforts, however, there are few clinically available nanomedicines. We need a paradigm shift in drug delivery. One strategy that may overcome the limitations of pathophysiology-based drug delivery is the use of remotely controlled delivery technology. Unlike pathophysiology-based active drug targeting strategies, light-switchable systems are not affected by the heterogeneity of cells, tissue types, and/or microenvironments. Instead, they are triggered by remote light (i.e., near-infrared) stimuli, which are absorbed by photoresponsive molecules or three-dimensional nanostructures. The sequential conversion of light to heat or reactive oxygen species can activate drug release and allow it to be spatio-temporally controlled. Light-switchable systems have been used to activate endosomal drug escape, modulate the release of chemical and biological drugs, and alter nanoparticle structures to control the release rates of drugs. This review will address the limitations of pathophysiology-based drug delivery systems, the current status of light-based remote-switch systems, and future directions in the application of light-switchable systems for remotely controlled drug delivery.