A UV-cross-linkable agent was incorporated and polymerized in Pluronic micelle core to create an interpenetrating polymer network (IPN) of poly(pentaerythritol tetraacrylate). This stabilization prevented micelle disruption below the critical micelle temperature (CMT) and concentration (CMC), while maintaining the integrity of the PEO corona and the hydrophobic properties of the PPO core. The prepared stabilized spherical micelles of Pluronic P94 and F127 presented hydrodynamic diameters ranging from 40 to 50 nm. The stability of cross-linked Pluronic micelles at 37 °C in the presence of serum proteins was studied and no aggregation of the micelles was observed, revealing the colloidal stability of the system. Cytotoxicity experiments in NIH/3T3 mouse fibroblasts revealed that the presence of the cross-linking agent did not induce any further toxicity in comparison to the respective pure polymer solutions. Furthermore, stabilized micelles of Pluronic P94 were shown to be less toxic than the polymer itself. A hydrophobic fluorescent probe (Nile red) was absorbed in the cross-linked core of pre-stabilized micelles to mimic the incorporation of a poorly water-soluble drug, and the internalization and intracellular localization of Nile red was studied by confocal microscopy at different incubation times. Overall, the results indicate that Pluronic micelles stabilized by core cross-linking are capable of delivering hydrophobic components physically entrapped in the micelles, thus making them a potential candidate as a delivery platform for imaging or therapy of cancer.
Keywords: Block copolymer; Cytotoxicity; Micelle stabilization; Pluronic; Self-assembling; UV cross-linking.
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