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Folate-targeted polymeric micelles loaded with ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide: combined small size and high MRI sensitivity

Authors Hong GB, Zhou JX, Yuan RX

Received 1 September 2011

Accepted for publication 14 April 2012

Published 11 June 2012 Volume 2012:7 Pages 2863—2872

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S25739

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Guo-bin Hong,1,2 Jing-xing Zhou,2 Ren-xu Yuan3

1Department of Radiology, Fifth Affiliated Hospital, Zhuhai, 2Department of Radiology, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Guangzhou, 3School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

Abstract: Targeted delivery of contrast agents is a highly desirable strategy for enhancing diagnostic efficiency and reducing side effects and toxicity. Water-soluble and tumor-targeting superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) were synthesized by loading hydrophobic SPIONs into micelles assembled from an amphiphilic block copolymer poly(ethylene glycol)-poly(ε-caprolactone) (PEG-PCL) bearing folate in the distal ends of PEG chains. Compared to the water-soluble SPIONs obtained by small molecular surfactant coating, ultrasmall SPION encapsulation with PEG-PCL micelles (PEG-PCL-SPIONs) simultaneously increases transverse (r2) and decreases longitudinal (r1) magnetic resonance (MR) relaxivities of water proton in micelle solution, leading to a notably high r2/r1 ratio up to 78, which makes the PEG-PCL-SPIONs a highly sensitive MR imaging (MRI) T2 contrast agent. The mean size of folate-attached SPION micelles (Fa-PEG-PCL-SPIONs) is 44 ± 3 nm on average, ideal for in vivo MRI applications in which long circulation is greatly determined by small particle size and is highly desirable. Prussian blue staining of BEL-7402 cells over-expressing folate receptors, after incubation with micelle-containing medium, demonstrated that folate functionalization of the magnetic particles significantly enhanced their cell uptake. The potential of Fa-PEG-PCL-SPIONs as a potent MRI probe for in vivo tumor detection was assessed. At 3 hours after intravenous injection of the Fa-PEG-PCL-SPION solution into mice bearing subcutaneous xenografts of human BEL-7402 hepatoma, a 41.2% signal intensity decrease was detected in the T2-weighted MR images of the tumor, indicating the efficient accumulation of Fa-PEG-PCL-SPIONs in the tumor tissue.

Keywords: tumor targeting, magnetic resonance imaging, polymeric micelles, superparamagnetic iron oxide

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