Temperature responsive hydrogels and nanoparticles for advanced drug delivery
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Many important therapeutic agents are associated with significant undesired side effects which often limit treatment duration and dosing. Specifically, most major classes of antitumor chemotherapeutics have deleterious effects on cell division and DNA synthesis throughout the body due to systemic biodistribution. Engineering systems for controlled drug delivery allows for improved quality of life during treatment; as well as higher localized therapeutic concentrations by isolating toxic drugs used in many diseases to specific physiological compartments. An important drug delivery strategy for controlled release of therapeutics is based on responsive polymer matrices, which undergo swelling transitions in response to environmental stimuli. Biologically relevant factors which may trigger the release of therapeutics from responsive polymers include pH, ionic strength, and temperature. Temperature responsive polymers integrated into a composite system with metal nanoparticles allow for on demand drug release via an externally-applied optical or magnetic energy source. The intent of this work was to develop a temperature-responsive drug delivery platform for controlled therapeutic release, as well to expand the toolbox for rational design of responsive hydrogel nanoparticles intended for therapeutic delivery. Temperature-responsive hydrogels were synthesized and examined in the form of nanoparticles and bulk polymer networks. These materials are based on interpenetrating polymer networks (IPNs) of polyacrylamide (PAAm) and poly(acrylic acid) (PAA), which exhibit a positive volume swelling response with respect to temperature. Since this system responds to pH, ionic strength, and temperature, these IPNs were characterized over a wide range of solution conditions. Critical synthesis parameters needed to optimize thermal responses for specific solution conditions were identified, as were the specific effects of pH and ionic strength on network swelling and stability. The reverse emulsion process used to synthesize IPN nanoparticles was characterized to determine how particle growth proceeds during preparation. To enhance biocompatibility, IPN nanoparticles were surface-modified with a corona of poly(ethylene glycol) to reduce protein adsorption, a common strategy to improve in vivo performance. Due to the large amounts of surfactants employed in the preparation of IPN nanoparticles, purification methods needed to improve safety of IPN nanoparticles were optimized, and studied in vitro to ensure cellular compatibility.