With the continuing need for very small devices in therapeutic applications, there is a growing demand for the development of nanoparticles that can transport and deliver drugs to target cells in the human body.
Recently, researchers created nanoparticles that under the right conditions, self-assemble – trapping complementary guest molecules within their structure. Like tiny submarines, these versatile nanocarriers can navigate in the watery environment surrounding cells and transport their guest molecules through the membrane of living cells to sequentially deliver their cargo.
Although the transport of molecules inside cells with nanoparticles has been previously achieved using various methods, researchers have developed nanoparticles capable of delivering and exchanging complementary molecules. For practical applications, these nanocarriers are highly desirable, explains Francisco Raymo, professor of chemistry in the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences and lead investigator of this project.
"The ability to deliver distinct species inside cells independently and force them to interact, exclusively in the intracellular environment, can evolve into a valuable strategy to activate drugs inside cells," Raymo says.
The new nanocarriers are15 nanometers in diameter. They are supramolecular constructs made up of building blocks called amphiphilic polymers. These nanocarriers hold the guest molecules within the confines of their water-insoluble interior and use their water-soluble exterior to travel through an aqueous environment. As a result, these nanovehicles are ideal for transferring molecules that would otherwise be insoluble in water, across a liquid environment.