Light-responsive polymer nanoreactors: a source of reactive oxygen species on demand
Various domains present the challenges of responding to stimuli in a specific manner, with the desired sensitivity or functionality, and only when required. Stimuli-responsive systems that are appropriately designed can effectively meet these challenges. Here, we introduce nanoreactors that encapsulate photosensitizer-protein conjugates in polymer vesicles as a source of "on demand" reactive oxygen species. Vesicles made of poly(2-methyloxazoline)-poly(dimethylsiloxane)-poly(2-methyloxazoline) successfully encapsulated the photosensitizer Rose Bengal-bovine serum albumin conjugate (RB-BSA) during a self-assembly process, as demonstrated by UV-Vis spectroscopy. A combination of light scattering and transmission electron microscopy indicated that the nanoreactors are stable over time. They serve a dual role: protecting the photosensitizer in the inner cavity and producing in situ reactive oxygen species (ROS) upon irradiation with appropriate electromagnetic radiation. Illumination with appropriate wavelength light allows us to switch on/off and to control the production of ROS. Because of the oxygen-permeable nature of the polymer membrane of vesicles, ROS escape into the environment around vesicles, as established by electron paramagnetic resonance. The light-sensitive nanoreactor is taken up by HeLa cells in a Trojan horse fashion: it is nontoxic and, when irradiated with the appropriate laser light, produces ROS that induce cell death in a precise area corresponding to the irradiation zone. These nanoreactors can be used in theranostic approaches because they can be detected via the fluorescent photosensitizer signal and simultaneously produce ROS efficiently "on demand".