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Enhancing Drug Delivery Efficacy Through Bilayer Coating of Zirconium-Based Metal-Organic Frameworks: Sustained Release and Improved Chemical Stability and Cellular Uptake for Cancer Therapy.

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Liu, Xiewen 
Obacz, Joanna 
Emanuelli, Giulia 
Abreu, Susana 


The development of nanoparticle (NP)-based drug carriers has presented an exciting opportunity to address challenges in oncology. Among the 100,000 available possibilities, zirconium-based metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have emerged as promising candidates in biomedical applications. Zr-MOFs can be easily synthesized as small-size NPs compatible with intravenous injection, whereas the ease of decorating their external surfaces with functional groups allows for targeted treatment. Despite these benefits, Zr-MOFs suffer degradation and aggregation in real, in vivo conditions, whereas the loaded drugs will suffer the burst effect-i.e., the fast release of drugs in less than 48 h. To tackle these issues, we developed a simple but effective bilayer coating strategy in a generic, two-step process. In this work, bilayer-coated MOF NU-901 remained well dispersed in biologically relevant fluids such as buffers and cell growth media. Additionally, the coating enhances the long-term stability of drug-loaded MOFs in water by simultaneously preventing sustained leakage of the drug and aggregation of the MOF particles. We evaluated our materials for the encapsulation and transport of pemetrexed, the standard-of-care chemotherapy in mesothelioma. The bilayer coating allowed for a slowed release of pemetrexed over 7 days, superior to the typical 48 h release found in bare MOFs. This slow release and the related performance were studied in vitro using both A549 lung cancer and 3T mesothelioma cells. Using high-resolution microscopy, we found the successful uptake of bilayer-coated MOFs by the cells with an accumulation in the lysosomes. The pemetrex-loaded NU-901 was indeed cytotoxic to 3T and A549 cancer cells. Finally, we demonstrated the general approach by extending the coating strategy using two additional lipids and four surfactants. This research highlights how a simple yet effective bilayer coating provides new insights into the design of promising MOF-based drug delivery systems.


Publication status: Published


40 Engineering, Nanotechnology, Bioengineering, Lung Cancer, Lung, Biotechnology, Cancer

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Chem Mater

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American Chemical Society (ACS)
European Research Council (726380)
Medical Research Council (MR/R009120/1)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/S009000/1)
MRC (MR/V028669/1)