Journal article Open Access

Nanosystems Based on Magnetic Nanoparticles and Thermo- or pH-Responsive Polymers: An Update and Future Perspectives

Binh T. Mai; Fernandes, Soraia; Preethi B. Balakrishnan; Teresa Pellegrino

Combining hard matter, like inorganic nanocrystals, and soft materials, like polymers, can generate multipurpose materials with a broader range of applications with respect to the individual building blocks. Given their unique properties at the nanoscale, magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) have drawn a great deal of interest due to their potential use in the biomedical field, targeting several applications such as heat hubs in magnetic hyperthermia (MHT, a heat-damage based therapy), contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nanocarriers for targeted drug delivery. At the same time, polymers, with their versatile macromolecular structure, can serve as flexible platforms with regard to constructing advanced functional materials. Advances in the development of novel polymerization techniques has enabled the preparation of a large portfolio of polymers that have intriguing physicochemical properties; in particular, those polymers that can undergo conformational and structural changes in response to their surrounding environmental stimuli. Therefore, merging the unique features of MNPs with polymer responsive properties, such as pH and thermal stimuli activation, enables smart control of polymer properties operated by the MNPs and vice versa at an unprecedented level of sophistication. These magnetic-stimuli-responsive nanosystems will impact the cancer field by combining magnetic hyperthermia with stimuli-dependent controlled drug delivery toward multimodal therapies. In this approach, a malignant tumor may be destroyed by a combination of the synergic effects of thermal energy generated by MNPs and the controlled release of antitumoral agents, activated by means of either heat or pH changes, finally leading to a much more effective cancer treatment than those available today. Also, taking advantage of such a triggered chemotherapy will overcome the notorious drawbacks of classic chemotherapy. Nevertheless, tracking the changes in the magnetic properties of such pH-responsive magnetic nanoparticles, which are provided by changes in relaxation signals of water molecules surrounding the nanoplatform, is a novel approach to the detection of pathological conditions (such as pH-changes at the ischemic and tumor sites). Despite great efforts by chemists to fabricate different featured materials, there have been few successful preclinical studies to date. A clinical translation of magnetic stimuli-responsive systems would require overcoming the actual nanosystem limitations and the joint efforts of an interdisciplinary scientific community.

In this Account, we have framed state of the art magnetic stimuli-responsive systems, focusing on thermo- and pH-responsive behavior, following an organization based on the response mechanisms of polymers. By evaluating the features of the most representative and advanced nanosystems that already exist in literature, we present the challenges to overcome, the future directions to undertake for the development of magnetic stimuli-responsive nanoplatforms that will work under clinical operating conditions and have biodegradable and biocompatible features, and a consideration of the technical aspects.

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