Non-polymeric nanogels as versatile nanocarriers: Intracellular transport of the photosensitizers Rose Bengal and Hypericin for photodynamic therapy

Ana Torres-Martinez, Begoña Bedrina, Eva Falomir, Maria J. Marin, Cesar A. Angulo-Pachon, Francisco Galindo (Lead Author), Juan F. Miravet (Lead Author)

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The use of nanocarriers for intracellular transport of actives has been extensively studied in recent years and represents a central area of nanomedicine. The main novelty of this paper lies on the use of nanogels formed by a low-molecular-weight gelator (1). Here, non-polymeric, molecular nanogels are successfully used for intracellular transport of two photodynamic therapy (PDT) agents, Rose Bengal (RB) and hypericin (HYP). The two photosensitizers (PSs) exhibit different drawbacks for their use in clinical applications. HYP is poorly water-soluble, while the cellular uptake of RB is hindered due to its dianionic character at physiological pH values. Additionally, both PSs tend to aggregate precluding an effective PDT. Despite the different nature of these PSs, nanogels from gelator 1 provide, in both cases, an efficient intracellular transport into human colon adenocarcinoma cells (HT-29) and a notably improved PDT efficiency, as assessed by confocal laser scanning microscopy and flow cytometry. Furthermore, no significant dark toxicity of the nanogels is observed, supporting the biocompatibility of the delivery system. The developed nanogels are highly reproducible due to their non-polymeric nature, and their synthesis is easily scaled up. The results presented here thus confirm the potential of molecular nanogels as valuable nanocarriers, capable of entrapping both hydrophobic and hydrophilic actives, for PDT of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3658–3669
Number of pages12
JournalACS Applied Bio Materials
Issue number4
Early online date1 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2021


  • Rose Bengal
  • drug delivery
  • hypericin
  • nanogels
  • nanomedicine
  • nanovehicles
  • organic molecular nanoparticles
  • photodynamic therapy

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