Dendrimers as drug and gene delivery vectors : a self consistent field theory study
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This research focuses on the modeling of dendrimer molecules for their application as delivery vectors within drug and gene therapy systems. We examine how the architecture and composition of dendrimers affect their drug and gene binding efficacies along with their interactions with anionic bilayers. We specifically focus on how the weakly basic nature of dendrimer monomers and the addition of neutral grafts to dendrimer surface groups affect their interactions with drugs, linear polyelectrolytes, and bilayers. By using polymer self-consistent field theory (SCFT) to model such systems, we develop a computationally efficient means to provide physical insights into these systems, which are intended to guide dendrimer design for delivery applications.We study the conformational properties of weakly basic (annealed) polyelectrolyte dendrimers by developing a SCFT model that explicitly accounts for the acid-base equilibrium reaction of the weakly basic monomers. We specifically focus on the role of local counterion concentration upon the charge and conformations of the annealed polyelectrolyte dendrimers. We compare our results to existing polymer scaling theories and develop a strong stretching theory for the dendrimer molecules.We extend the previous study to model the interactions between weakly basic dendrimers and weakly acidic, hydrophobic drug molecules. We specifically examine the effects of excluded volume, electrostatic, and enthalpic interactions on the binding efficacies between dendrimers and drugs under a variety of dendrimer generations, solution pOH conditions, drug sizes, and Bjerrum length values.We study the role of neutral dendrimer grafts on the conformations and drug binding efficacies of dendrimers. We then elucidate how the observed conformational changes affect the charge of the dendrimers. Furthermore, we examine how the presence of grafts affects the steric, electrostatic, and hydrophobic interactions between the drugs and dendrimers under a variety of solution conditions. We compare our results with the binding efficacies observed for non-grafted dendrimers to delineate the conditions under which the grafted dendrimers are better suited as drug hosts.We include semi-flexible, anionic linear polyelectrolyte (LPE) molecules in our grafted dendrimer SCFT framework to model the interactions between dendrimers and negatively charged genetic materials. Specifically, we examine how neutral dendrimer grafts, LPE stiffness, and solution pOH affect the interactions between dendrimers and LPEs. We then use our SCFT potential fields as input into Monte Carlo simulations in order to determine the dendrimer-LPE potentials of mean force and the resulting loop and tail statistics of the dendrimer-adsorbed LPE chains.We incorporate a negatively charged bilayer into our grafted dendrimer SCFT framework to model dendrimer interactions with a cellular membrane. We specifically examine the role of dendrimer grafting length, solution pH, and membrane tension on such interactions. By comparing our results with SCFT calculations of fixed dendrimer conformations and hard sphere nanoparticles in the presence of membranes, we delineate the role of dendrimer flexibility and porosity on the interactions between dendrimers and anionic bilayers.