Liposomes: from a clinically established drug delivery system to a nanoparticle platform for theranostic nanomedicine

Wafa' T Al-Jamal, Kostas Kostarelos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

606 Citations (Scopus)


For decades, clinicians have used liposomes, self-assembled lipid vesicles, as nanoscale systems to deliver encapsulated anthracycline molecules for cancer treatment. The more recent proposition to combine liposomes with nanoparticles remains at the preclinical development stages; however, such hybrid constructs present great opportunities to engineer theranostic nanoscale delivery systems, which can combine simultaneous therapeutic and imaging functions. Many novel nanoparticles of varying chemical compositions are being developed in nanotechnology laboratories, but further chemical modification is often required to make these structures compatible with the biological milieu in vitro and in vivo. Such nanoparticles have shown promise as diagnostic and therapeutic tools and generally offer a large surface area that allows covalent and non-covalent surface functionalization with hydrophilic polymers, therapeutic moieties, and targeting ligands. In most cases, such surface manipulation diminishes the theranostic properties of nanoparticles and makes them less stable. From our perspective, liposomes offer structural features that can make nanoparticles biocompatible and present a clinically proven, versatile platform for further enhancement of the pharmacological and diagnostic efficacy of nanoparticles. In this Account, we describe two examples of liposome-nanoparticle hybrids developed as theranostics: liposome-quantum dot hybrids loaded with a cytotoxic drug (doxorubicin) and artificially enveloped adenoviruses. We incorporated quantum dots into lipid bilayers, which rendered them dispersible in physiological conditions. This overall vesicular structure allowed them to be loaded with doxorubicin molecules. These structures exhibited cytotoxic activity and labeled cells both in vitro and in vivo. In an alternative design, lipid bilayers assembled around non-enveloped viral nanoparticles and altered their infection tropism in vitro and in vivo with no chemical or genetic capsid modifications. Overall, we have attempted to illustrate how alternative strategies to incorporate nanoparticles into liposomal nanostructures can overcome some of the shortcomings of nanoparticles. Such hybrid structures could offer diagnostic and therapeutic combinations suitable for biomedical and even clinical applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1094-1104
Number of pages11
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2011


  • Animals
  • Neoplasms
  • Engineering
  • Nanomedicine
  • Humans
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Nanoparticles
  • Liposomes

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