Near-IR-induced dissociation of thermally-sensitive star polymers†
Responsive systems sensitive to near-infrared (NIR) light are promising for triggered release due to efficient deep tissue penetration of NIR irradiation relative to higher energy sources (e.g., UV), allowing for spatiotemporal control over triggering events with minimal potential for tissue damage. Herein, we report star polymers containing thermally-labile azo linkages that dissociate during conventional heating or during localized heating via the photothermal effect upon NIR irradiation. Controlled release during conventional heating was investigated for the star polymers loaded with a model dye, with negligible release being observed at 25 °C and >80% release at 90 °C. Star polymers co-loaded with NIR-responsive indocyanine green showed rapid dye release upon NIR irradiation (λ ≥ 715 nm) due to the photothermally-induced degradation of azo linkages within the cores of the star polymers. This approach provides access to a new class of delivery and release systems that can be triggered by noninvasive external stimulation.