Self-assembled nucleo-tripeptide hydrogels provide local and sustained doxorubicin release†
Self-assembled nucleo-peptide hydrogels have a nanofibril structure composed of noncovalent molecular interactions between peptide groups as well as π–π stacking and Watson–Crick interactions via complementary nucleobases. These hydrogels have specific benefits for biomedical applications due to their DNA-like interactions in addition to the well-known advantages of peptide biomaterials: biocompatibility, extracellular matrix (ECM)-like structure, and bottom-up design. Inspired by the nucleobase stacking structure, we hypothesized that nucleo-peptides would be able to deliver the DNA-intercalating chemotherapeutic, doxorubicin (Dox) in a sustained manner when delivered locally to a solid tumor. Ade-FFF nucleo-peptide hydrogels were able to load a high concentration of Dox (1 mM) and demonstrated continuous release under in vitro degradation conditions. We adopted an in vivo tumor-bearing mouse model to evaluate the delivery of Dox by Ade-FFF hydrogels. We found that Dox-containing hydrogels reduced tumor growth and resulted in greater apoptosis-mediated cell death in the tumor as evidenced by caspase-3 expression. Pharmacokinetics and biodistribution studies also supported the observation that Dox delivery by an Ade-FFF hydrogel improves sustained delivery in the local tumor site. This study demonstrates the potential of self-assembled nucleo-peptides in biomedical applications by using their distinctive DNA-like structure.