Thiol-Reactive Star Polymers Display Enhanced Association with Distinct Human Blood Components

Directing nanoparticles to specific cell types using nonantibody-based methods is of increasing interest. Thiol-reactive nanoparticles can enhance the efficiency of cargo delivery into specific cells through interactions with cell-surface proteins. However, studies to date using this technique have been largely limited to immortalized cell lines or rodents, and the utility of this technology on primary human cells is unknown. Herein, we used RAFT polymerization to prepare pyridyl disulfide (PDS)-functionalized star polymers with a methoxy-poly­(ethylene glycol) brush corona and a fluorescently labeled cross-linked core using an arm-first method. PDS star polymers were examined for their interaction with primary human blood components: six separate white blood cell subsets, as well as red blood cells and platelets. Compared with control star polymers, thiol-reactive nanoparticles displayed enhanced association with white blood cells at 37 °C, particularly the phagocytic monocyte, granulocyte, and dendritic cell subsets. Platelets associated with more PDS than control nanoparticles at both 37 °C and on ice, but they were not activated in the duration examined. Association with red blood cells was minor but still enhanced with PDS nanoparticles. Thiol-reactive nanoparticles represent a useful strategy to target primary human immune cell subsets for improved nanoparticle delivery.