Tuning the corona-core ratio of polyplex micelles for selective oligonucleotide delivery to hepatocytes or hepatic immune cells
Targeted delivery of oligonucleotides or small molecular drugs to hepatocytes, the liver's parenchymal cells, is challenging without targeting moiety due to the highly efficient mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS) of the liver. The MPS comprises Kupffer cells and specialized sinusoidal endothelial cells, efficiently clearing nanocarriers regardless of their size and surface properties. Physiologically, this non-parenchymal shield protects hepatocytes; however, these local barriers must be overcome for drug delivery. Nanocarrier structural properties strongly influence tissue penetration, in vivo pharmacokinetics, and biodistribution profile. Here we demonstrate the in vivo biodistribution of polyplex micelles formed by polyion complexation of short interfering (si)RNA with modified poly(ethylene glycol)-block-poly(allyl glycidyl ether) (PEG-b-PAGE) diblock copolymer that carries amino moieties in the side chain. The ratio between PEG corona and siRNA complexed PAGE core of polyplex micelles was chemically varied by altering the degree of polymerization of PAGE. Applying Raman-spectroscopy and dynamic in silico modeling on the polyplex micelles, we determined the corona-core ratio (CCR) and visualized the possible micellar structure with varying CCR. The results for this model system reveal that polyplex micelles with higher CCR, i.e., better PEG coverage, exclusively accumulate and thus allow passive cell-type-specific targeting towards hepatocytes, overcoming the macrophage-rich reticuloendothelial barrier of the liver.