Thermoresponsive hydrogel nanoparticles composed of poly(N-isopropylmethacrylamide) (pNIPMAm) and the disulfide-based cross-linker N,N’-bis(acryloyl)cystamine (BAC) have been prepared using a redox-initiated, aqueous precipitation polymerization approach, leading to improved stability of the disulfide bond compared to traditional thermally-initiated methods. The resultant particles demonstrate complete erosion in response to reducing conditions or thiol competition. This stands in contrast to the behavior of thermally-initiated particles, which retain a cross-linked network following disulfide cleavage due to uncontrolled chain-branching and self-cross-linking side reactions. The synthetic strategy has also been combined with the non-degradable cross-linker N,N-methylenebisacrylamide (BIS) to generate “co-cross-linked” pNIPMAm-BAC-BIS microgels. These particles are redox-responsive, swell upon BAC cross-link scission and present reactive thiols. This pendant thiol functionality was demonstrated to be useful for conjugation of thiol-reactive probes and in reversible network formation by assembling particles cross-linked by disulfide linkages.
The binding of cytochrome c to pH and thermoresponsive colloidal hydrogels was investigated using multiangle light scattering, measuring loading through changes in particle molar mass and root mean square radius. Loosely cross-linked microgels [composed of a random copolymer of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAm) and acrylic acid (AAc)] demonstrated a high loading capacity for protein. Encapsulation was dependent on both the charge characteristics of the network and the salinity of the medium. Under favorable binding conditions (neutral pH, low ionic strength), microgels containing the highest studied charge density (30 mol% AAc) were capable of encapsulating greater than 9.7 × 105 cytochrome c molecules per particle. Binding resulted in the formation of a polymer-protein complex and condensation of the polymer. Anionic microgels demonstrated a change in density ~20-fold in the presence of oppositely charged proteins. These studies of cytochrome c encapsulation represent a significant step towards direct measurement of encapsulation efficiency in complex media as we pursue responsive nanogels and microgels for the delivery of macromolecular therapeutic agents.
Detailed characterization of hydrogel particle erosion revealed critical physicochemical differences between spheres, where network decomposition was informative of network structure. Real-time, in situ monitoring of the triggered erosion of colloidal hydrogels (microgels) was performed via multiangle light scattering. The solution-average molar mass and root-mean-square radii of eroding particles were measured as a function of time for microgels prepared from N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAm) or N-isopropylmethacrylamide (NIPMAm), copolymerized with a chemically-labile cross-linker (1,2-dihydroxylethylene)bisacrylamide (DHEA). Precipitation polymerization was employed to yield particles of comparable dimensions but with distinct topological features. Heterogeneous cross-linker incorporation resulted in a heterogeneous network structure for pNIPAm microgels. During the erosion reaction, mass loss proceeded from the exterior towards the interior of the polymer. In contrast, pNIPMAm microgels had a more homogeneous network structure, which resulted in a more uniform mass loss throughout the particle during erosion. Although both particle types degraded into low molar mass products, pNIPAm microgels were incapable of complete dissolution due to the presence of non-degradable cross-links arising from chain transfer and branching during particle synthesis. The observations described herein provide insight into key design parameters associated with the synthesis of degradable hydrogel particles, which may be of use in various biotechnological applications.
polymer erosion; microgel; multiangle light scattering; responsive polymer; pNIPAm; pNIPMAm
Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)(pNIPAm) microgels were synthesized by precipitation polymerization at temperatures ranging from 37 °C to 45 °C using the redox initiator system ammonium persulfate (APS)/N,N,N’,N’-tetramethylethylenediamine (TEMED), or the photoinitiator 2,2′-azobis(amidinopropane) dihydrochloride (V50). Photon correlation spectroscopy (PCS) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) studies revealed that spherical microgels with narrow size dispersities can be obtained with these methods, and that the resultant microgels have volume phase transition behaviors expected from their compositions. Additionally, the low temperature, redox initiator strategy produces microgels devoid of self-cross-linking, thereby permitting the synthesis of completely degradable microgels when using N,N’-(1,2-dihydroxyethylene)bisacrylamide (DHEA) as a cleavable cross-linker. We also demonstrate the potential utility of the approach in bioconjugate syntheses; in this case avidin immobilization is demonstrated by one-pot copolymerization at low temperature.
degradable microgels; N-isopropylacrylamide; protein immobilization; self cross-linking
Inflammatory responses to implanted biomedical devices elicit a foreign body fibrotic reaction that limits device integration and performance in various biomedical applications. We examined chronic inflammatory responses to microgel conformal coatings consisting of thin films of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) hydrogel microparticles cross-linked with poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate deposited on poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET). Unmodified and microgel-coated PET disks were implanted subcutaneously in rats for 4 weeks and explants were analyzed by histology and immunohistochemistry. Microgel coatings reduced chronic inflammation and resulted in a more mature/organized fibrous capsule. Microgel-coated samples exhibited 22% thinner fibrous capsules that contained 40% fewer cells compared to unmodified PET disks. Furthermore, microgel-coated samples contained significantly higher levels of macrophages (40%) than unmodified PET controls. These results demonstrate that microgel coatings reduce chronic inflammation to implanted biomaterials.
foreign body response; macrophage; hydrogel; polyethylene terephthalate; fibrous capsule
Solutions containing high macromolecule concentrations are predicted to affect a number of protein properties compared to those properties in dilute solution. In cells, these macromolecular crowders have a large range of sizes and can occupy 30% or more of the available volume. We chose to study the stability and ps-ns internal dynamics of a globular protein whose radius is ~2 nm when crowded by a synthetic microgel composed of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-acrylic acid) with particle radii of ~300 nm.
Our studies revealed no change in protein rotational or ps-ns backbone dynamics and only mild (~0.5 kcal/mol at 37°C, pH 5.4) stabilization at a volume occupancy of 70%, which approaches the occupancy of closely packing spheres. The lack of change in rotational dynamics indicates the absence of strong crowder-protein interactions.
Our observations are explained by the large size discrepancy between the protein and crowders and by the internal structure of the microgels, which provide interstitial spaces and internal pores where the protein can exist in a dilute solution-like environment. In summary, microgels that interact weakly with proteins do not strongly influence protein dynamics or stability because these large microgels constitute an upper size limit on crowding effects.
Surfactant-free, radical precipitation co-polymerization of N-isopropylmethacrylamide (NIPMAm) and the cationic co-monomer N-(3-aminopropyl) methacrylamide hydrochloride (APMH) was carried out to prepare microgels functionalized with primary amines. The morphology and hydrodynamic diameter of the microgels were characterized by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and photon correlation spectroscopy (PCS), with the effect of NaCl concentration and initiator type on the microgel size and yield being investigated. When a V50-initiated reaction was carried out in pure water, relatively small microgels (~160 nm diameter) were obtained in low yield (~20%). However, both the yield and size increased if the reaction was carried out in saline or by using APS as initiator instead of V50. Stable amine-laden microgels in the range from 160 nm to 950 nm in diameter with narrow size distributions were thus produced using reaction media with controlled salinity. Microgel swelling and electrophoretic mobility values as a function of pH, ionic strength and temperature were also studied, illustrating the presence of cationic sidechains and their influence on microgel properties. Finally, the availability of the primary amine groups for post-polymerization modification was confirmed via modification with fluorescein-NHS.
Controlled salinity; Microgel; N-isopropylmethacrylamide; cationic polymer
hydrogel particles; filtration; compressibility; renal clearance; membranes
We describe the synthesis and characterization of degradable nanogels that display bulk erosion under physiologic conditions (pH = 7.4, 37 °C). Erodible poly(N-isopropylmethacrylamide) nanogels were synthesized by copolymerization with N,O-(dimethacryloyl)hydroxylamine, a cross-linker previously used in the preparation of non-toxic and biodegradable bulk hydrogels. To monitor particle degradation, we employed multiangle light scattering and differential refractometry detection following asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation. This approach allowed the detection of changes in nanogel molar mass and topology as a function of both temperature and pH. Particle erosion was evident from both an increase in nanogel swelling and a decrease in scattering intensity as a function of time. Following these analyses, the samples were recovered for subsequent characterization by direct particle tracking, which yields hydrodynamic size measurements and enables number density determination. Additionally, we confirmed the conservation of nanogel stimuli-responsivity through turbidity measurements. Thus, we have demonstrated the synthesis of degradable nanogels that erode under conditions and on timescales that are relevant for many drug delivery applications. The combined separation and light scattering detection method is demonstrated to be a versatile means to monitor erosion and should also find applicability in the characterization of other degradable particle constructs.
Nanogel; Asymmetrical Flow Field-Flow Fractionation; Static light scattering; Multi-Angle Light Scattering; Particle Tracking; Polymer Degradation; pNIPMAm; DMHA
Thin films assembled from microgel building blocks have been constructed using a simple, high-throughput, and reproducible centrifugation (or “active”) deposition technique. When compared to a common passive adsorption method (e.g., dip coating), microgels that are actively deposited onto a surface have smaller footprints and are more closely packed. Under both active and passive deposition conditions, the microgel footprint areas decrease during deposition. However, under active deposition, the microgel footprint appears to decrease continually and to a greater degree over the course of the deposition, forming a tightly packed, homogeneous film. Taking advantage of the rapid and uniform assembly of these films, we demonstrate the use of active deposition toward the fabrication of polyelectrolyte multilayers containing anionic microgels and a cationic linear polymer. Microgel multilayers successfully demonstrated effective blocking of the underlying substrate toward macrophage adhesion, which is a highly sought-after property for modulating the inflammatory response to an implanted biomaterial.
hydrogel particles; centrifugation; film interfaces; layer by layer; cellular adhesion
Chemoresistance is a major obstacle in cancer treatment. Targeted therapies that enhance cancer cell sensitivity to chemotherapeutic agents have the potential to increase drug efficacy while reducing toxic effects on untargeted cells. Targeted cancer therapy by RNA interference (RNAi) is a relatively new approach that can be used to reversibly silence genes in vivo by selectively targeting genes such as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which has been shown to increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to taxane chemotherapy. However, delivery represents the main hurdle for the broad development of RNAi therapeutics.
We report here the use of core/shell hydrogel nanoparticles (nanogels) functionalized with peptides that specially target the EphA2 receptor to deliver small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting EGFR. Expression of EGFR was determined by immunoblotting, and the effect of decreased EGFR expression on chemosensitization of ovarian cancer cells after siRNA delivery was investigated.
Treatment of EphA2 positive Hey cells with siRNA-loaded, peptide-targeted nanogels decreased EGFR expression levels and significantly increased the sensitivity of this cell line to docetaxel (P < 0.05). Nanogel treatment of SK-OV-3 cells, which are negative for EphA2 expression, failed to reduce EGFR levels and did not increase docetaxel sensitivity (P > 0.05).
This study suggests that targeted delivery of siRNAs by nanogels may be a promising strategy to increase the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs for the treatment of ovarian cancer. In addition, EphA2 is a viable target for therapeutic delivery, and the siRNAs are effectively protected by the nanogel carrier, overcoming the poor stability and uptake that has hindered clinical advancement of therapeutic siRNAs.
Implantation of synthetic materials into the body elicits inflammatory host responses that limit medical device integration and biological performance. This inflammatory cascade involves protein adsorption, leukocyte recruitment and activation, cytokine release, and fibrous encapsulation of the implant. We present a coating strategy based on thin films of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) hydrogel microparticles (i.e. microgels) cross-linked with poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate. These particles were grafted onto a clinically relevant polymeric material to generate conformal coatings that significantly reduced in vitro fibrinogen adsorption and primary human monocytes/macrophage adhesion and spreading. These microgel coatings also reduced leukocyte adhesion and expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-1β, MCP-1) in response to materials implanted acutely in the murine intraperitoneal space. These microgel coatings can be applied to biomedical implants as a protective coating to attenuate biofouling, leukocyte adhesion and activation, and adverse host responses for biomedical and biotechnological applications.
cell adhesion; cytokine; foreign body response; hydrogel; macrophage; polyethylene terephthalate
A major bottleneck in the development of siRNA therapies is their delivery to the desired cell type or tissue, followed by effective passage across the cell membrane with subsequent silencing of the targeted mRNA. To address this problem, we describe the synthesis of core/shell hydrogel nanoparticles (nanogels) with surface-localized peptides that specifically target ovarian carcinoma cell lines possessing high expression levels of the Eph2A receptor. These nanogels are also demonstrated to be highly effective in the noncovalent encapsulation of siRNA and enable cell-specific delivery of the oligonucleotides in serum-containing medium. Cell toxicity and viability assays reveal that the nanogel construct is nontoxic under the conditions studied, as no toxicity or decrease in cell proliferation is observed following delivery. Importantly, a preliminary investigation of gene silencing illustrates that nanogel-mediated delivery of siRNA targeted to the EGF receptor results in knockdown of that receptor. Excellent protection of siRNA during endosomal uptake and endosomal escape of the nanogels is suggested by these results since siRNA activity in the cytosol is required for gene silencing.
Nanoparticles possessing multiple functionalities provide synthetic handles for varied surface chemistries, making them useful for a range of applications such as biotargeting and drug delivery. However, the combination of interfering functionalities on the same particle is often challenging. We have employed a synthetic scheme involving chemical protection/deprotection to combine interfering functional groups on the same hydrogel nanoparticle. The synthesis of amine-containing poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) nanogels was carried out via free radical precipitation polymerization by incorporating a Fmoc-protected amine PEG macromonomer. The Fmoc group was then removed to obtain free amines, which were shown to be available for conjugation. We further explored pNIPAm-co-acrylic acid nanogels with a protected amine-PEG, yielding zwitterionic particles. With careful attention to the order of the chemoligation and deprotection steps, these interfering functional groups can be forced to behave in a pseudo-orthogonal fashion, allowing for multiple chemoligation steps that employ both the amine and carboxylic acid groups.
Nanogels; Chemoligation; Orthogonal functionality; Bioconjugation
Small, monodispersed nanogels (~ 50-nm radius) were synthesized by free-radical precipitation polymerization and characterized using a suite of light scattering and chromatography methods. Nanogels were synthesized with either N-isopropylacrylamide or N-isopropylmethacrylamide as the main monomer, with acrylic acid or 4-acrylamidofluorescein as a co-monomer and N, N′-methylenebis(acrylamide) as a cross-linker. By varying the surfactant and initiator concentrations, particle size was controlled while maintaining excellent monodispersity. An amine-containing shell was added to these core particles to facilitate subsequent bioconjugation. Successful conjugation of folic acid to the particles was demonstrated as an example of how such materials might be employed in a targeted drug delivery system.
nanogels; synthesis; bioconjugation; monodispersity; core/shell