Targeted doxorubicin delivery by chitosan-galactosylated modified polymer microbubbles to hepatocarcinoma cells

Raffaella Villa, Barbara Cerroni, Lucia Viganò, Silvia Margheritelli, Gabriella Abolafio, Letizia Oddo, Gaio Paradossi, Nadia Zaffaroni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Targeted drug delivery is a main issue in cancer treatment. Taking advantage of recently developed polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)-based microbubbles, which are characterized by chemical versatility of the polymeric surface thereby allowing coating with different ligands, we set up a strategy for the targeted delivery of the anticancer agent doxorubicin to hepatocarcinoma cells. Such microbubbles are exceptionally efficient ultrasound scatterers and thus represent also an option as potential ultrasound contrast agents. Moreover, the oscillation of microbubbles induced by ultrasound could contribute to favor the release of drugs allocated on shell. Specifically, PVA-based microbubbles were reacted with a galactosylated chitosan complex and loaded with doxorubicin to enable the localization and drug delivery to HepG2 hepatocarcinoma cells overexpressing asialoglycoprotein receptors. We demonstrated selectivity and greater bioadhesive properties of the functionalized microbubbles for tumor cells than to normal fibroblasts, which were influenced by the degree of galactosylation. The presence of galactosylated chitosan did not modify the rate of doxorubicin release from microbubbles, whichwas almost complete within 48. h. Cellular uptake of doxorubicin loaded on functionalized microbubbles was higher in HepG2 than in normal fibroblasts, which do not over express the asialoglycoprotein receptors. In addition, doxorubicin loaded onto functionalized microbubbles fully retained its cytotoxic activity. Cells were also irradiated with ultrasound, immediately after exposure to microbubbles. An early enhancement of doxorubicin release and cellular drug uptake associated to a concomitant increase in cytotoxicity was observed in HepG2 cells. Overall, results of the study indicate that galactosylated chitosan microbubbles represent promising devices for the targeted delivery of antitumor agents to liver cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-442
Number of pages9
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2013


  • Asialoglycoprotein receptors
  • Chitosan
  • Drug release
  • Hepatocarcinoma
  • Microbubbles
  • Targeted drug delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces and Interfaces


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