Proteins with unique structure and function have tremendous applications in biomedicine for cancer, diabetes, loss-of-function genetic diseases, as well as in regenerative medicine. However, their intrinsic properties such as low stability and short circulation time limit the clinical application of protein drugs.
An appropriate platform to load and deliver active forms of proteins toward cells and tissues is highly desirable for preserving activity, enhancing stability and avoiding potential immunogenicity of proteins.
Zhen Gu, professor at the Joint UNC/NC State Department of Biomedical Engineering, and his co-workers introduce in a recent article the latest advances in protein nanogels. The scientists describe in situ polymerization methods for the preparation of the nanogels and provide an insight into future opportunities for the commercialization of these systems.
Nanogels are nanoscaled hydrogel particles composed of crosslinked polymer network. Monomers or preformed polymer and crosslinkers are physically or chemically attached to the proteins surface. Subsequent polymerization produces stable nanogels that encapsulate the proteins. The in situ polymerized shell helps preserve the protein activity, enhance the protein stability and shield it from potential immunogenicity. In addition, tailored formulation chemistry of nanogels allows for protein delivery in a spatial-, temporal- and dosage-controlled manner. A range of stimuli-responsive elements including temperature, pH, enzyme, and photo irradiation can be incorporated for on-demand protein release.