Gold Nanorods Stabilized by Biocompatible and Multifunctional Zwitterionic Copolymer for Synergistic Cancer Therapy
A zwitterionic copolymer between methacryloyloxyethyl phosphorylcholine (MPC) and methacrylic acid (MA), PMAMPC is introduced as a potential versatile polymeric stabilizer for gold nanorods (AuNRs). The MA units in the copolymer serve as built-in feature for multiple functionalization, namely introducing additional thiol groups as active sites for binding with the AuNRs and conjugating with doxorubicin (DOX), an anticancer drug via acid-labile hydrazone linkage. The MPC units, on the other hand, provide biocompatibility and antifouling characteristics. The chemically modified PMAMPC can act as an effective stabilizer for AuNRs yielding PMAMPC-DOX-AuNRs with a fairly uniform size and shape with good colloidal stability. In vitro cytotoxicity suggested that PMAMPC can not only improve the AuNRs biocompatibility, but also decrease DOX toxicity to a certain extent. The PMAMPC-DOX-AuNRs were efficiently internalized inside cancer cells and localized in lysosomes, where DOX was presumably acid-triggered released as monitored by confocal laser scanning microscopic analysis and flow cytometry. Furthermore, the combined photothermal-chemo treatment of cancer cells using PMAMPC-DOX-AuNRs exhibited a higher therapeutic efficacy than either single treatment alone. These results suggested that the PMAMPC-DOX-AuNRs could potentially be applied in pH-triggered drug delivery for synergistic cancer therapy.