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Charge-Convertible Carbon Dots for Imaging-Guided Drug Delivery with Enhanced in Vivo Cancer Therapeutic Efficiency

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journal contribution
posted on 20.03.2016, 00:00 by Tao Feng, Xiangzhao Ai, Guanghui An, Piaoping Yang, Yanli Zhao
Carbon dots (CDs) are remarkable nanocarriers due to their promising optical and biocompatible capabilities. However, their practical applicability in cancer therapeutics is limited by their insensitive surface properties to complicated tumor microenvironment in vivo. Herein, a tumor extracellular microenvironment-responsive drug nanocarrier based on cisplatin­(IV) prodrug-loaded charge-convertible CDs (CDs–Pt­(IV)@PEG-(PAH/DMMA)) was developed for imaging-guided drug delivery. An anionic polymer with dimethylmaleic acid (PEG-(PAH/DMMA)) on the fabricated CDs–Pt­(IV)@PEG-(PAH/DMMA) could undergo intriguing charge conversion to a cationic polymer in mildly acidic tumor extracellular microenvironment (pH ∼ 6.8), leading to strong electrostatic repulsion and release of positive CDs–Pt­(IV). Importantly, positively charged nanocarrier displays high affinity to negatively charged cancer cell membrane, which results in enhanced internalization and effective activation of cisplatin­(IV) prodrug in the reductive cytosol. The in vitro experimental results confirmed that this promising charge-convertible nanocarrier possesses better therapeutic efficiency under tumor extracellular microenvironment than normal physiological condition and noncharge-convertible nanocarrier. The in vivo experiments further demonstrated high tumor-inhibition efficacy and low side effects of the charge-convertible CDs, proving its capability as a smart drug nanocarrier with enhanced therapeutic effects. The present work provides a strategy to promote potential clinical application of CDs in the cancer treatment.