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The Blood Clearance Kinetics and Pathway of Polymeric Micelles in Cancer Drug Delivery.

  • Sun, Xuanrong1
  • Wang, Guowei1
  • Zhang, Hao
  • Hu, Shiqi1
  • Liu, Xin1
  • Tang, Jianbin1
  • Shen, Youqing1
  • 1 Center for Bionanoengineering and Key Laboratory of Biomass Chemical Engineering of Ministry of Education, College of Chemical and Biological Engineering , Zhejiang University , Hangzhou 310027 , China. , (China)
Published Article
ACS Nano
American Chemical Society
Publication Date
Jun 04, 2018
DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b02830
PMID: 29847730


Polymer micelles are one of the most investigated nanocarriers for drug delivery; many have entered clinical trials and some are in clinic use, but their delivery systems have not yet shown the expected high therapeutic efficacy in clinics. Further understanding their in vivo behaviors, particularly how quickly and by what mechanism polymer micelles are cleared ( i. e., via micelles or unimers) once injected, is key to solving this dilemma. Herein, we hope to answer these questions for the clinically relevant polyethylene glycol- block-poly(ε-caprolactone) (PEG-PCL) and PEG- block-poly(d,l-lactide) (PEG-PDLLA) micelles. A small fraction of the hydrophobic chain ends was conjugated with a pair of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) dyes, Cy5 and Cy5.5, and used to fabricate FRET micelles whose FRET efficiency was correlated to the percentage of polymer chains in the micelles, the micelle degree. In vitro, serum proteins induced PEG-PCL micelle dissociation to some extent; mouse serum or blood surprisingly did not induce micelle dissociation but once with shear applied by a microfluidic channel caused most PEG-PCL micelles dissociated. After intravenous administration in mice, the PEG-PCL or PEG-PDLLA micelles were quickly sequestered into the liver as unimers, and the micelle degree in the blood quickly decreased to about 20%. The FRET-imaging experiments showed that in blood vessels the micelles quickly dissociated into unimers, which were found associated with albumin in blood and in liver. Thus, it is concluded that, upon intravenous injection, the shear and the bloodborne proteins (particularly albumin) induced the most (∼80%) PEG-PCL and PEG-PDLLA micelles to quickly dissociate into unimers, which were sequestered by Kupffer cells, while intact micelles were difficult to clear. These micelles were able to penetrate tumors and were very stable with cell membranes, but dissociated gradually inside cells. These findings on in vivo micelle fate and the clearance mechanism are directional for the rational design of polymer micelles for improved therapeutics; particularly, improving micelle stability in blood is the prerequisite for surface functionalizations such as introducing targeting ligands.

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