New method to improve nanoparticle coating may improve tumor targeting


A new technique to improve the coating of nanoparticles used in cancer treatment could improve tumor targeting, concludes a new study conducted in a collaboration between the University of Eastern Finland and Anhui Medical University in China.

Tumor targeting is a prerequisite for effective cancer treatment as it improves therapeutic outcomes and decreases adverse effects. However, effective targeting is difficult to achieve with nanoparticles (NPs) coated with synthetic targeting ligands, which are currently the gold standard.

The cell membrane (CM) coating technique offers a new approach to overcome this challenge. CM coating imparts various biological properties to NPs, e.g., immune evasion, prolonged systemic circulation time, and effective tumor targeting. However, researchers had previously found that most CM-coated NPs reported in the literature were only partially coated, as quantified by a fluorescence quenching assay. The mechanism associated with this partial coating has remained largely unknown, limiting further development of the coating technique and hampering improved tumor targeting efficiency.

Posted in Nature Communication, a new study suggests a simple method for fixing the partial CM coating. This technique involves external phospholipids as an aid to increase CM fluidity, promoting eventual fusion of adjacent CM patches.

The researchers identified the mechanism by which the coating process, i.e. the adsorption, disruption and fusion of CM vesicles, is responsible for the partial coating.

Although rupture of CM vesicles can occur during extrusion through computer simulation results, membrane fluidity was determined to be a critical factor for attachment of the partial coating. “

Lizhi Liu, Study First Author, University of Eastern Finland

“Enhancement of partial embedding was then achieved by introducing external unsaturated phospholipids to increase CM fluidity,” he continues.

“Fixing the partial CM coating effectively enhanced NP accumulation in tumor tissue, which was due to enhanced immune evasion and improved cancer-specific targeting ability of fixed biomimetic NPs,” explains Dr. Wujun Xu, one of the corresponding authors.

“We have confirmed the universality of this hybrid coating method using various NP cores, such as mesoporous silica, gold and poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA). Through a deep understanding of the mechanism of coating, our discovery ushers in a new era of better biomimetic nanocarrier design for advanced tumor targeting,” concludes Professor Vesa-Pekka Lehto from the University of Eastern Finland.


University of Eastern Finland (UEF Viestintä)

Journal reference:

Liu, L. et al. (2022) Systematic cell membrane coating design to improve nanoparticle tumor targeting. Communication Nature.


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