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The application of RNA interference to treat disease is an important yet challenging concept in modern medicine. In particular, small interfering RNA (siRNA) have shown tremendous promise in the treatment of cancer. However, siRNA show poor pharmacological properties, which presents a major hurdle for effective disease treatment especially through intravenous delivery routes. In response to these shortcomings, a variety of nanoparticle carriers have emerged, which are designed to encapsulate, protect, and transport siRNA into diseased cells. To be effective as carrier vehicles, nanoparticles must overcome a series of biological hurdles throughout the course of delivery. As a result, one promising approach to siRNA carriers is dynamic versatile nanoparticles that can perform several in vivo functions.

Over the last several years, our research group has investigated hydrogel nanoparticles (nanogels) as candidate delivery vehicles for therapeutics, including siRNA. Throughout the course of our research, we have developed higher order architectures composed entirely of hydrogel components, where several different hydrogel chemistries may be isolated in unique compartments of a single construct. In this Account, we summarize a subset of our experiences in the design and application of nanogels in the context of drug delivery, summarizing the relevant characteristics for these materials as delivery vehicles for siRNA.

Through the layering of multiple, orthogonal chemistries in a nanogel structure, we can impart multiple functions to the materials. We consider nanogels as a platform technology, where each functional element of the particle may be independently tuned to optimize the particle for the desired application. For instance, we can modify the shell compartment of a vehicle for cell-specific targeting or evasion of the innate immune system, whereas other compartments may incorporate fluorescent probes or regulate the encapsulation and release of macromolecular therapeutics.

Proof-of-principle experiments have demonstrated the utility of multifunctional nanogels. For example, using a simple core/shell nanogel architecture, we have recently reported the delivery of siRNA to chemosensitize drug resistant ovarian cancer cells. Ongoing efforts have resulted in several advanced hydrogel structures, including biodegradable nanogels and multicompartment spheres. In parallel, our research group has studied other properties of the nanogels, including their behavior in confined environments and their ability to translocate through small pores.


Copyright 2012 American Institute of Physics. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the American Institute of Physics. The following article appeared in American Institute of Physics

Clara-Rahola, J.; Fernandez-Nieves, A.; Sierra-Martin, B.; South, A. B.; Lyon, L. A.; Kohlbrecher, J.; Barbero, A. F., Structural properties of thermoresponsive poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-poly(ethyleneglycol) microgels, J. Chem. Phys. 2012, 136 (21), Article Number 214903.

and may be found at DOI: 10.1063/1.4723686.


American Institute of Physics



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