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2020 - Facile Mixing of Phospholipids Promotes Self-Assembly of Low-Molecular-Weight Biodegradable Block Co-Polymers into Functional Vesicular Architectures

icon vpp   Vesicle Prep Pro publication in Polymers (2020)

Khan A., Ho J.C.S., Roy S., Bo Liedberg B., Nallani M.

Polymers (2020) 12(4), 979 doi: 10.3390/polym12040979


In this work, we have used low-molecular-weight (PEG12-b-PCL6, PEG12-b-PCL9 or PEG16-b-PLA38; MW, 1.25-3.45 kDa) biodegradable block co-polymers to construct nano- and micron-scaled hybrid (polymer/lipid) vesicles, by solvent dispersion and electroformation methods, respectively. The hybrid vesicles exhibit physical properties (size, bilayer thickness and small molecule encapsulation) of a vesicular boundary, confirmed by cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, calcein leakage assay and dynamic light scattering. Importantly, we find that these low MW polymers, on their own, do not self-assemble into polymersomes at nano and micron scales. Using giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) model, their surface topographies are homogeneous, independent of cholesterol, suggesting more energetically favorable mixing of lipid and polymer. Despite this mixed topography with a bilayer thickness similar to that of a lipid bilayer, variation in surface topology is demonstrated using the interfacial sensitive phospholipase A2 (sPLA2). The biodegradable hybrid vesicles are less sensitive to the phospholipase digestion, reminiscent of PEGylated vesicles, and the degree of sensitivity is polymer-dependent, implying that the nano-scale surface topology can further be tuned by its chemical composition. Our results reveal and emphasize the role of phospholipids in promoting low MW polymers for spontaneous vesicular self-assembly, generating a functional hybrid lipid-polymer interface.

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