Folate-functionalized unimolecular micelles based on a degradable amphiphilic dendrimer-like star polymer for cancer cell-targeted drug delivery

Weiqiang Cao, Jing Zhou, Alexander Mann, Yong Wang, Lei Zhu

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88 Scopus citations


A folate-functionalized degradable amphiphilic dendrimer-like star polymer (FA-DLSP) with a well-defined poly(l-lactide) (PLLA) star polymer core and six hydrophilic polyester dendrons based on 2,2-bis(hydroxymethyl) propionic acid was successfully synthesized to be used as a nanoscale carrier for cancer cell-targeted drug delivery. This FA-DLSP hybrid formed unimolecular micelles in the aqueous solution with a mean particle size of ca. 15 nm as determined by dynamic light scattering and transmission electron microscopy. To study the feasibility of FA-DLSP micelles as a potential nanocarrier for targeted drug delivery, we encapsulated a hydrophobic anticancer drug, doxorubicin (DOX), in the hydrophobic core, and the loading content was determined by UV-vis analysis to be 4 wt %. The DOX-loaded FA-DLSP micelles demonstrated a sustained release of DOX due to the hydrophobic interaction between the polymer core and the drug molecules. The hydrolytic degradation in vitro was monitored by weight loss and proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to gain insight into the degradation mechanism of the FA-DLSP micelles. It was found that the degradation was pH-dependent and started from the hydrophilic shell gradually to the hydrophobic core. Flow cytometry and confocal microscope studies revealed that the cellular binding of the FA-DLSP hybrid against human KB cells with overexpressed folate-receptors was about twice that of the neat DLSP (without FA). The in vitro cellular cytotoxicity indicated that the FA-DLSP micelles (without DOX) had good biocompatibility with KB cells, whereas DOX-loaded micelles exhibited a similar degree of cytotoxicity against KB cells as that of free DOX. These results clearly showed that the FA-DLSP unimolecular micelles could be a promising nanosize anticancer drug carrier with excellent targeting property.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2697-2707
Number of pages11
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 11 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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