An intelligent re-shieldable targeting system for enhanced tumor accumulation

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Programmed ligand targeting strategy promotes the blood circulation stability of nanoparticles by shielding the ligand. However, the irreversible shielding causes the deshielded nanoparticles to be easily recognized and cleared by the reticuloendothelial system (RES), impeding their further retention in the tumor. Here, we for the first time prove the superiority of the intelligent re-shieldable targeting system that is based on the pH-responsive self-assembly/disassembly of gold nanoparticles. The system can enhance the stability of gold nanoparticles in the blood circulation (2.6-fold at 24 h), reduce uptake by the RES (35% lower) and improve tumor accumulation (41% higher by analysis of gold content in tumor) effectively compared with the conventional irreversible system. Furthermore, preliminary study indicates that the system could be applied as computed tomography contrast agent in tumor imaging. The in vivo validity of the intelligent re-shieldable targeting system provides inspiration for the design of nanomaterials for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

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