Conventional therapeutics are often limited by their targeting ability, resulting in harmful and potential fatal side-effects for the patients. Recently, new strategies have been developed to improve target specificity of drugs in order to generate more efficient therapeutics. An innovative concept, examined in this thesis, is the use of cells as therapeutic carriers. This concept termed cell-mediated drug delivery, relies on the intrinsic targeting properties of cells to transport the therapeutic drug to the target location. The conjugation of nanoparticles, loaded with drugs or adjuvants, to the surface of cells enables the transport to the desired location and increases the local drug concentration, reducing the required therapeutic leading to further attenuation of side effects.
Chapter 1 introduces the concept of cell-mediated drug delivery. It highlights the advantages of using cells decorated with nanoparticles as carriers for therapeutics as opposed to free (polymer) nanoparticles. Examples of various covalent and non-covalent nanoparticle conjugations strategies are discussed and an overview of all approaches, which have been used previously to attach nanoparticles to the cell surface, is presented. The importance of a thorough in vitro characterization of nanoparticle-modified cells is emphasized. The use of common characterization techniques such as flow cytometry, UV-Vis and fluorescence spectroscopy, fluorescence and electron microscopy, and radiolabeling is discussed in detail and examples of qualitative and quantitative in vitro analysis of nanoparticle- modified cells are reviewed.
Chapter 2 contains an extensive in vitro analysis of cell-nanoparticle conjugates using fluorescent- and fluorescent label-free methods. The stability of nanoparticles loaded with cargo attached to cells was investigated by encapsulating three different green fluorescent dyes into nanoparticles and tracking the fluorescence signal over 24 h. Two of the dyes revealed a complete loss of fluorescence of a time period of 24 h, whereas a third entrapped dye and a covalently attached dye did not have a decrease in fluorescence over 24 h. Finally, we developed a fluorescent label-free method as an alternative to characterize nanoparticle-decorated cells without the need for any fluorescent label.
Chapter 3 systematically explores conjugation chemistries to immobilize two platforms of functional biodegradable polymer nanoparticles (PEG-PLA (poly(ethylene glycol) - poly(lactide)) nanoparticles and carboxylic PLA nanoparticles) on T cells as potential carrier across the blood-brain barrier (BBB). We compared a series of covalent and non-covalent immobilization strategies by flow cytometry (FACS), confocal microscopy, and impact on cell proliferation and cellular viability. We found that T-cell surface coupling of nanoparticles is dependent on the ratio of nanoparticles to cells and that higher ratios led to more particles attached to cells. Furthermore, the most efficient strategy to attach nanoparticles was via ligand-receptor interactions (lectin - sialic acid and biotin - NeutrAvidin). In addition, nanoparticle-decorated T cells were investigated for their ability to cross an in vitro mouse BBB model under static conditions in a two-chamber assay. Decorating the cells with nanoparticles does not affect their ability to bind ICAM-1 (a protein involved in the transmigration process) or to cross the model biological barrier.EPFL