Intracellularly Biodegradable Polyelectrolyte/Silica Composite Microcapsules as Carriers for Small Molecules

Hui Gao, Olga A. Goriacheva, Nadezda V. Tarakina, Gleb B. Sukhorukov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Microcapsules that can be efficiently loaded with small molecules and effectively released at the target area through the degradation of the capsule shells hold great potential for treating diseases. Traditional biodegradable polyelectrolyte (PE) capsules can be degraded by cells and eliminated from the body but fail to encapsulate drugs with small molecular weight. Here, we report a poly-l-arginine hydrochloride (PARG)/dextran sulfate sodium salt (DEXS)/silica (SiO2) composite capsule that can be destructed in cells and of which the in situ formed inorganic SiO2 enables loading of small model molecules, Rhodamine B (Rh-B). The composite capsules were fabricated based on the layer-by-layer (LbL) technique and the hydrolysis of tetraethoxysilane (TEOS). Capsules composed of nondegradable PEs and SiO2, polyllamine hydrochloride (PAH)/poly(sodium 4-styrenesulfonate) (PSS)/silica (the control sample), were prepared and briefly compared with the degradable composite capsules. An intracellular degradation study of both types of composite capsules revealed that PARG/DEXS/silica capsules were degraded into fragments and lead to the release of model molecules in a relatively short time (2 h), while the structure of PAH/PSS/silica capsules remained intact even after 3 days incubation with B50 cells. Such results indicated that the polymer components played a significant role in the degradability of the SiO2. Specifically, PAH/PSS scaffolds blocked the degradation of SiO2. For PARG/DEXS/silica capsules, we proposed the effects of both hydrolytic degradation of amorphous silica and enzymatic degradation of PARG/DEXS polymers as a cell degradation mechanism. All the results demonstrated a new type of functional composite microcapsule with low permeability, good biocompatibility, and biodegradability for potential medical applications. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9651-9661
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • biodegradable
  • composite capsules
  • polyelectrolyte
  • SiO
  • small molecule delivery


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