Assemblies of poly(N-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone)-based double hydrophilic block copolymers triggered by lanthanide ions: characterization and evaluation of their properties as MRI contrast agents†
Because of the formation of specific antibodies to poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) leading to life-threatening side effects, there is an increasing need to develop alternatives to treatments and diagnostic methods based on PEGylated copolymers. Block copolymers comprising a poly(N-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone) (PVP) segment can be used for the design of such vectors without any PEG block. As an example, a poly(acrylic acid)-block-poly(N-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone) (PAA-b-PVP) copolymer with controlled composition and molar mass is synthesized by reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization. Mixing this copolymer with lanthanide cations (Gd3+, Eu3+, Y3+) leads to the formation of hybrid polyion complexes with increased stability, preventing the lanthanide cytotoxicity and in vitro cell penetration. These new nanocarriers exhibit enhanced T1 MRI contrast, when intravenously administered into mice. No leaching of gadolinium ions is detected from such hybrid complexes.