To improve the in vivo stability of poly(-caprolactone)-b-poly(ethylene glycol) (PCL-PEG)-based micelles and cargo retention by π-π stacking interactions, pendant aromatic rings were introduced by copolymerization of -caprolactone with benzyl 5-methyl-2-oxo-1,3-dioxane-5-carboxylate (TMC-Bz). It was shown that the incorporation of aromatic rings yielded smaller micelles (18-30 nm) with better colloidal stability in PBS than micelles without aromatic groups. The circulation time of i.v. injected micelles containing multiple pendant aromatic groups was longer (t½-α: ~0.7 h; t½-β: 2.9 h) than that of micelles with a single terminal aromatic group (t½ < 0.3 h). In addition, the in vitro partitioning of the encapsulated photosensitizer (meta-tetra(hydroxyphenyl)chlorin, mTHPC) between micelles and human plasma was favored towards micelles for those that contained the pendant aromatic groups. However, this was not sufficient to fully retain mTHPC in the micelles in vivo, as indicated by similar biodistribution patterns of micellar mTHPC compared to free mTHPC, and unequal biodistribution patterns of mTHPC and the host micelles. Our study points out that more detailed in vitro methods are necessary to more reliably predict in vivo outcomes. Furthermore, additional measures beyond π-π stacking are needed to stably incorporate mTHPC in micelles in order to benefit from the use of micelles as targeted delivery systems.
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