Dually responsive gold–iron oxide heterodimers: merging stimuli-responsive surface properties with intrinsic inorganic material features
We demonstrate a versatile approach for the preparation of dually responsive smart inorganic heterostructures (HSs) with the potential for exploitation in nanomedicine. We utilize Au–FexOy dimers as templates for generating smart inorganic HSs with a pH-responsive coating and a thermo-responsive coating attached to iron oxide and gold nanoparticles (NPs), respectively. First, a thiol-modified thermo-responsive (PNIPAAM-co-PEGA) polymer could be selectively attached to the gold domain by ligand exchange. The sequential attachment of a catechol-modified initiator to the iron oxide surface enables the in situ polymerization of a pH-responsive (PDMAEA) polymer. As hereby shown, the presence of the two distinct polymer domains on each NP subdomain enables each side of the HS to be loaded with different agents. Indeed, by a gel electrophoresis experiment we demonstrate the loading of siRNA on the pH-responsive polymer and the loading of Nile Blue dye, used as a drug model molecule, on the thermo-responsive polymer. The smart HSs exhibited good biocompatibility and downregulated GFP production when loaded with anti-GFP siRNA molecules. In addition, an investigation of the magnetic relaxivity times revealed that the high R2 relaxivity values of the HSs suggest their potential as contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) applications.