Since αvβ3 integrin is a key component of angiogenesis in health and disease, Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptide-functionalized nanocarriers have been investigated as vehicles for targeted delivery of drugs to the αvβ3 integrin-overexpressing neovasculature of tumors. In this work, PEGylated nanoparticles (NPs) based on poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) functionalized with cyclic-RGD (cRGD), were evaluated as nanocarriers for the targeting of angiogenic endothelium. For this purpose, NPs (~300 nm) functionalized with cRGD with different surface densities were prepared by maleimide-thiol chemistry and their interactions with human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were evaluated under different conditions using flow cytometry and microscopy. The cell association of cRGD-NPs under static conditions was time-, concentration- and cRGD density-dependent. The interactions between HUVECs and cRGD-NPs dispersed in cell culture medium under flow conditions were also time- and cRGD density-dependent. When washed red blood cells (RBCs) were added to the medium, a 3 to 8-fold increase in NPs association to HUVECs was observed. Moreover, experiments conducted under flow in the presence of RBC at physiologic hematocrit and shear rate, are a step forward in the prediction of in vivo cell–particle association. This approach has the potential to assist development and high-throughput screening of new endothelium-targeted nanocarriers.
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