Controlled delivery of gold nanoparticle-coupled miRNA therapeutics via an injectable self-healing hydrogel

Nanoscale. 2021 Dec 16;13(48):20451-20461. doi: 10.1039/d1nr04973a.


Differential expression of microRNAs (miRNAs) plays a role in many diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Potentially, miRNAs could be targeted with miRNA-therapeutics. Sustained delivery of these therapeutics remains challenging. This study couples miR-mimics to PEG-peptide gold nanoparticles (AuNP) and loads these AuNP-miRNAs in an injectable, shear thinning, self-assembling polymer nanoparticle (PNP) hydrogel drug delivery platform to improve delivery. Spherical AuNPs coated with fluorescently labelled miR-214 are loaded into an HPMC-PEG-b-PLA PNP hydrogel. Release of AuNP/miRNAs is quantified, AuNP-miR-214 functionality is shown in vitro in HEK293 cells, and AuNP-miRNAs are tracked in a 3D bioprinted human model of calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD). Lastly, biodistribution of PNP-AuNP-miR-67 is assessed after subcutaneous injection in C57BL/6 mice. AuNP-miRNA release from the PNP hydrogel in vitro demonstrates a linear pattern over 5 days up to 20%. AuNP-miR-214 transfection in HEK293 results in 33% decrease of Luciferase reporter activity. In the CAVD model, AuNP-miR-214 are tracked into the cytoplasm of human aortic valve interstitial cells. Lastly, 11 days after subcutaneous injection, AuNP-miR-67 predominantly clears via the liver and kidneys, and fluorescence levels are again comparable to control animals. Thus, the PNP-AuNP-miRNA drug delivery platform provides linear release of functional miRNAs in vitro and has potential for in vivo applications.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gold
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels
  • Metal Nanoparticles*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Hydrogels
  • MIRN214 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Gold