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A Non-toxic Cellular Staining Agent Based on Fluorescently Labeled Poly[2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyl phosphorylcholine]

N.J. Warren, M. Massignani, S.P. Armes, G. Battaglia, A.L. Lewis
The University of Sheffield, UK

Keywords: drug delivery, biomimicry, polymer conjugates


The biocompatible monomer 2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyl phosphorylcholine (MPC) is polymerized by atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) using a fluorescent ATRP initiator and fluorescent comonomers. In this study we show that PMPC alone can be used as a carrier for small molecules by covalently attaching a fluorescent label. The nature of the fluorescent tag does not have any detrimental effect on the polymerization and the majority of the resulting (co)polymers had low polydispersities, with each exhibiting the expected absorption/emission profiles that are characteristic of the fluorescent label. Human dermal fibroblast cells were treated with these labeled polymers and rapid internalization and efficient cell staining was achieved within one hour, as judged by confocal microscopy. Depending on the nature of the fluorescent label, organelle specificity was also observed: the rhodamine 6G-labeled (co)polymers selectively stain the mitochondria while the fluorescein-labeled copolymers were distributed throughout the cellular matrix. The results indicate that small molecules can be transported into cells using a relatively simple system, removing the need for complex drug delivery vehicles such as self-assembled block copolymer micelles or dendritic systems.
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