Tuning the size of all-HPMA polymeric micelles fabricated by solvent extraction

Yan Wang, Dominique M E Thies-Weesie, Esmeralda D C Bosman, Mies J van Steenbergen, Joep van den Dikkenberg, Yang Shi, Twan Lammers, Cornelus F van Nostrum, Wim E Hennink

Published: March 2022


The size of polymeric micelles crucially affects their tumor accumulation, penetration and antitumor efficacy. In the present study, micelles were formed based on amphiphilic poly(N-2-hydroxypropyl methacrylamide)-block-poly(N-2-benzoyloxypropyl methacrylamide) (p(HPMAm)-b-p(HPMAm-Bz)) via the solvent extraction method, and factors impacting micelle size were systematically studied, including the molecular weight of the polymers, homopolymer content, and processing methods (i.e., batch process versus continuous microfluidics). The formation of core-shell structured micelles was demonstrated by light scattering, sedimentation velocity and electron microscopy analysis. Micellar size and aggregation number increased with decreasing the molecular weight ratio of the hydrophilic/hydrophobic block. The presence of hydrophobic p(HPMAm-Bz) homopolymer and high copolymer concentration increased micelle size, while the presence of hydrophilic p(HPMAm) homopolymer did not affect micellar size. Regarding processing conditions, it was found that the use of tetrahydrofuran and acetone as solvents for the polymers resulted in larger micelles, likely due to their relatively high water-solvent interaction parameters as compared to other solvents tested, i.e., dimethylformamide, dimethylacetamide, and dimethyl sulfoxide. Among the latter, only dimethylformamide led to micelles with a narrow polydispersity. Addition of dimethylformamide to an aqueous solvent and faster mixing of two solvents using microfluidics favored the formation of smaller micelles. In conclusion, our results show that the size of all-HPMA polymeric micelles can be easily tailored from 40 to 120 nm by varying the formulation properties and processing parameters.

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Full Access Link: Journal of Controlled Release