Journal Article Loading Efficiency of Polymersomes with Contrast Agents and their Intracellular Delivery: Quantum Dots Versus Organic Dyes.


38 ( 2 )  , pp.825 - 831 , 2018-02
Background/Aim: Contrast nanocarriers as drug-delivery systems, capable of selective delivery to cancer cells and solid tumors, are essential for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic (theranostic) strategies. The present study aimed to investigate the loading efficiency of chitosan-based polymersomes with fluorescent contrast substances [quantum dots (QDs) and conventional organic dyes] and the possibility to control their release from the polymer matrix into cells by chemical modifications and electroporation. Materials and Methods: All investigated fluorophores were retained within the polymer globule via electrostatic and hydrophilic–hydrophobic interactions, without conjugation with the polymer. The fluorophore-loaded polymersomes were characterized by dynamic light scattering, zeta-potential titration, and fluorescence spectroscopy. The release of fluorophore from the polymersomes, passively or after electroporation, was detected by 5-step spin-ultrafiltration, combined with fluorescence spectroscopy of the upper phase (supernatant) of the filter unit. Passive intracellular delivery of the nanoparticles to HeLa cells was detected by fluorescence confocal microscopy. Results: The QDs were retained tightly and continuously in the polymer matrix, while the organic fluorophores [fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC), FITC-dextran10,000 and FITC-dextran70,000] were released rapidly from the polymersomes. The detergent Brij significantly increased the retention of FITC-dextran10,000 in the polymer globule. Electroporation up to 1000 V/cm did not induce release of QDs from the polymersomes, but accelerated the release of Brij-treated FITC-dextran10,000 B from the polymer matrix. High-voltage pulses (over 750 V/cm) induced also fragmentation or aggregation of the nanoparticles. QD_labeled polymersomes penetrated passively in cancer cells after 24-hour incubation. Conclusion: The results suggest that QD-labeled polymersomes are appropriate fluorescent probes and a nano-drug delivery system with high tracing opportunities for in vitro and in vivo applications. Furthermore, loading polymersomes with organic dyes with different molecular weights (such as FITC-dextrans) is a simple model for visualizing and predicting the rate of release of small organic molecules (e.g. conventional drugs, other contrasts, stabilizers, and supplements) from the polymer matrix.

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