High potency and safe therapies are still required for ischemic stroke, which is a leading cause of global death and disability. Herein, a reactive oxygen species (ROS)-responsive, transformable, and triple-targeting dl-3-n-butylphthalide (NBP) nanotherapy was developed for ischemic stroke. To this end, a ROS-responsive nanovehicle (OCN) was first constructed using a cyclodextrin-derived material, which showed considerably enhanced cellular uptake in brain endothelial cells due to notably reduced particle size, morphological transformation, and surface chemistry switching upon triggering via pathological signals. Compared to a nonresponsive nanovehicle, this ROS-responsive and transformable nanoplatform OCN exhibited a significantly higher brain accumulation in a mouse model of ischemic stroke, thereby affording notably potentiated therapeutic effects for the nanotherapy derived from NBP-containing OCN. For OCN decorated with a stroke-homing peptide (SHp), we found significantly increased transferrin receptor-mediated endocytosis, in addition to the previously recognized targeting capability to activated neurons. Consistently, the engineered transformable and triple-targeting nanoplatform, i.e., SHp-decorated OCN (SON), displayed a more efficient distribution in the injured brain in mice with ischemic stroke, showing considerable localization in endothelial cells and neurons. Furthermore, the finally formulated ROS-responsive transformable and triple-targeting nanotherapy (NBP-loaded SON) demonstrated highly potent neuroprotective activity in mice, which outperformed the SHp-deficient nanotherapy at a 5-fold higher dose. Mechanistically, our bioresponsive, transformable, and triple-targeting nanotherapy attenuated the ischemia/reperfusion-induced endothelial permeability and improved dendritic remodeling and synaptic plasticity of neurons in the injured brain tissue, thereby promoting much better functional recovery, which were achieved by efficiently enhancing NBP delivery to the ischemic brain tissue, targeting injured endothelial cells and activated neurons/microglial cells, and normalizing the pathological microenvironment. Moreover, preliminary studies indicated that the ROS-responsive NBP nanotherapy displayed a good safety profile. Consequently, the developed triple-targeting NBP nanotherapy with desirable targeting efficiency, spatiotemporally controlled drug release performance, and high translational potential holds great promise for precision therapy of ischemic stroke and other brain diseases.
Keywords: ROS-responsive; brain disease; ischemic stroke; precision therapy; transformable nanoparticle; triple-targeting nanoplatform.