Perfluorocarbon nanodroplets stabilized by fluorinated surfactants: characterization and potentiality as theranostic agents
We aim to produce emulsions that can act as contrast agents and drug carriers for cancer imaging and therapy. To increase tumor detection and decrease drug side effects, it is desirable to take advantage of the enhanced permeability and retention effect that allows nanoparticles to accumulate in tumor tissues. To do so, the emulsion droplets need to be small enough and stable over time in addition to enhancing image contrast and carrying a drug payload. In the present study, we have investigated the properties and potentiality as theranostic agents of perfluorocarbon emulsions stabilized by a biocompatible fluorinated surfactant called FTAC. To obtain better control of our system, the synthesis of those surfactants was studied and their physico-chemical properties were explored in different configurations such as micelles, in the perfluorocarbon droplet shell and at water/air and water/perfluorocarbon interfaces. The originality of this work lies in the determination of numerous characteristics of emulsions and fluorinated surfactants including surface tension, interfacial tension, critical micelle concentration, adiabatic compressibility, density, size distribution (aging studies), and ultrasonic echogenicity. These characterization studies were conducted using different types of FTAC and several perfluorocarbons (perfluoropentane, perfluorohexane, and perfluorooctyl bromide). We have also shown that a hydrophobic drug could be encapsulated in the FTAC-stabilized perfluorocarbon droplets thanks to triacetin addition. Finally, the perfluorocarbon emulsions were detectable in vitro by a clinical 3 T MRI scanner, equipped with a double frequency 19F/1H transmit–receive coil.