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What happens to nanocarriers once they’ve delivered their cargo to the cell? How does the cell get rid of them?

 

Answer

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Photo: MPI for Polymer Research / Landfester

This question relates to the project ‘Polymers as nano ferries’, which is part of the theme ‘Active, healthy bodies’. Externer Link (German)

Once a nanocarrier has delivered its cargo to the cell, its job is done. We don’t want cells to become rubbish dumps for the remains of nanocarriers, but we can’t assume that the carriers will leave the cell just like that. That is why, when developing nanocarriers for medical applications, researchers build them out of materials that can be broken down into smaller building blocks (“monomers”) via hydrolysis and enzymatic activity in the cell. These processes transform, for instance, polylactic acid into lactic acid, and long polysaccharides into smaller units of sugar. Cells can easily get rid of these tiny units, which means the nanocarrier disappears out of their system.

This question was answered by Prof. Katharina Landfester of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research.