Structural modification of poly(n-isopropylacrylamide) for drug delivery applications
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Polymeric biomaterials have become ubiquitous in modern medical devices. ‘Smart’ materials, materials that respond to external stimuli, have been of particular interest for biomedical applications such as drug delivery. Poly(n-isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAAm) is the best studied thermally responsive, biocompatible, ‘smart’ polymer and has been integrated into many potential drug delivery devices; however, the architectural design of the polymer in these devices is often overlooked. My research focus was the exploration of pNIPAAm architecture for biological applications. Two new biomaterials were synthesized as a result. Architectural modification of linear pNIPAAm was used to synthesize a well-defined homopolymer pNIPAAm with a sharp transition slightly above normal body temperature under isotonic conditions. This polymer required a combination of polymerization and control techniques including controlled radical polymerization, hydrogen bond induced tacticity, and end-group manipulation. The synthesis of this polymer opened up a variety of biomedical possibilities, one of which is the use of these polymers in a novel hydrogel system. Through the use of the controlled linear pNIPAAm synthesized through chain architectural modification, hydrogels with physiological transition temperatures were also synthesized. These hydrogels showed greater shrinking properties than traditional hydrogels synthesized in the same manner and showed physiological mechanical properties. Highly branched pNIPAAm was also optimized for biological applications. In this case, the branching reduced the efficacy of end-groups in transition temperature modification but increased the efficacy of certain copolymers. The resulting biomaterial was incorporated into a nanoparticle drug delivery system. By combining gold nanoparticles with highly branched pNIPAAm, which was designed to entrap small molecule drugs, a hybrid system was synthesized where heating of the nanoparticle through surface plasmon resonance can trigger drug release from the pNIPAAm. This system proved to be easy to synthesize, effective in loading, and controlled in release. As shown from the applications, architectural control of pNIPAAm can open up new possibilities with this polymer for biomedical applications. Small structural changes can lead to significant changes in the bulk properties of the polymer and should be considered in future pNIPAAm based medical devices.