The design of multifunctional hydrogel nanoparticles for drug delivery
Smith, Michael Hughes
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Hydrogel micro- and nanoparticles (microgels and nanogels) are a promising class of drug delivery vehicles. Composed of hydrophilic polymers arranged into a cross-linked network structure, nanogels show several attractive features for the delivery of macromolecule therapeutics. For instance, the hydrated, porous internal cavity of the nanogel may serve as a high capacity compartment for loading macromolecules, whereas the periphery of the nanogel may be used as a scaffold for conjugating cell-specific targeting moieties. This dissertation presents recent investigations of nanogels as targeted delivery vehicles for oligonucleotides to cancer cells, while exploring new nanogel chemistries that enable future in vivo applications. For instance, synthetic efforts have produced particles capable of erosion into low molar mass constituents, providing a possible mechanism of particle clearance after repeated administration in vivo. In another example, the microgel network chemistry was tuned to promote the encapsulation of charged proteins. In parallel with those synthetic efforts, new light scattering methodologies were developed to accurately quantify the particle behaviors (e.g. loading, erosion). Using multiangle light scattering (MALS), changes in particle molar mass and radius were measured, providing a quantitative and direct approach for monitoring nanogel erosion and macromolecule encapsulation. The new particle chemistries demonstrated, together with enabling light scattering methods, will catalyze the development of improved delivery vehicles in the near future.