Dendrimers have several featured advantages over other nanomaterials as drug carriers, such as well-defined structure, specific low-nanometer size, and abundant peripheral derivable groups, etc. However, these advantages have not been fully exploited yet to optimize their biological performance, especially tumor penetration, which is a shortcoming of current nanomaterials. Here we show the syntheses of a new class of oligo(ethylene glycol) (OEG)-based thermosensitive dendrimers up to the fourth generation. Each dendrimer shows monodisperse structure. OEG/poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) moieties with different precise lengths were introduced to the periphery of the fourth-generation dendrimer followed by an antitumor agent, gemcitabine (GEM). The biodistributions of the GEM-conjugated dendrimers were investigated by micro positron emission tomography and multispectral optoacoustic tomography imaging techniques and compared with that of GEM-conjugated poly(amidoamine) (PAMAM). The GEM-conjugated dendrimer with the longest peripheral PEG segments exhibited the most desirable tumor accumulation and penetration and thus had significantly higher antitumor activity than the GEM-conjugated PAMAM.

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