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Development of a robust pH-sensitive polyelectrolyte ionomer complex for anticancer nanocarriers

Authors Lim C, Youn YS, Lee KS, Hoang NH, Sim T, Lee ES, Oh KT

Received 27 October 2015

Accepted for publication 29 December 2015

Published 22 February 2016 Volume 2016:11 Pages 703—713


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Thomas Webster

Chaemin Lim,1,* Yu Seok Youn,2,* Kyung Soo Lee,1 Ngoc Ha Hoang,1 Taehoon Sim,1 Eun Seong Lee,3 Kyung Taek Oh1

1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, 2Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon, 3Division of Biotechnology, The Catholic University of Korea, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Abstract: A polyelectrolyte ionomer complex (PIC) composed of cationic and anionic polymers was developed for nanomedical applications. Here, a poly(ethylene glycol)–poly(lactic acid)–poly(ethylene imine) triblock copolymer (PEG–PLA–PEI) and a poly(aspartic acid) (P[Asp]) homopolymer were synthesized. These polyelectrolytes formed stable aggregates through electrostatic interactions between the cationic PEI and the anionic P(Asp) blocks. In particular, the addition of a hydrophobic PLA and a hydrophilic PEG to triblock copolyelectrolytes provided colloidal aggregation stability by forming a tight hydrophobic core and steric hindrance on the surface of PIC, respectively. The PIC showed different particle sizes and zeta potentials depending on the ratio of cationic PEI and anionic P(Asp) blocks (C/A ratio). The doxorubicin (dox)-loaded PIC, prepared with a C/A ratio of 8, demonstrated pH-dependent behavior by the deprotonation/protonation of polyelectrolyte blocks. The drug release and the cytotoxicity of the dox-loaded PIC (C/A ratio: 8) increased under acidic conditions compared with physiological pH, due to the destabilization of the formation of the electrostatic core. In vivo animal imaging revealed that the prepared PIC accumulated at the targeted tumor site for 24 hours. Therefore, the prepared pH-sensitive PIC could have considerable potential as a nanomedicinal platform for anticancer therapy.

Keywords: polyelectrolyte ionomer complex, PEG–PLA–PEI, nanomedicine, pH-sensitive, animal imaging

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