Amphiphilic AB block copolymers consisting of thermosensitive poly(N-(2-hydroxypropyl) methacrylamide lactate) and poly(ethylene glycol), pHPMAmDL-b-PEG, were synthesized via a macroinitiator route. Dynamic light scattering measurements showed that these block copolymers form polymeric micelles in water with a size of around 50 nm by heating of an aqueous polymer solution from below to above the critical micelle temperature (cmt). The critical micelle concentration as well as the cmt decreased with increasing pHPMAmDL block lengths, which can be attributed to the greater hydrophobicity of the thermosensitive block with increasing molecular weight. Cryogenic transmission electron microscopy analysis revealed that the micelles have a spherical shape with a narrow size distribution. 1H NMR measurements in D2O showed that the intensity of the peaks of the protons from the pHPMAmDL block significantly decreased above the cmt, indicating that the thermosensitive blocks indeed form the solidlike core of the micelles. Static light scattering measurements demonstrated that pHPMAmDL-b-PEG micelles with relatively large pHPMAmDL blocks possess a highly packed core that is stabilized by a dense layer of swollen PEG chains. FT-IR analysis indicated that dehydration of amide bonds in the pHPMAmDL block occurs when the polymer dissolved in water is heated from below to above its cmt. The micelles were stable when an aqueous solution of micelles was incubated at 37 degrees C and at pH 5.0, where the hydrolysis rate of lactate side groups is minimized. On the other hand, at pH 9.0, where hydrolysis of the lactic acid side groups occurs, the micelles started to swell after 1.5 h of incubation and complete dissolution of micelles was observed after 4 h as a result of hydrophilization of the thermosensitive block. Fluorescence spectroscopy measurements with pyrene loaded in the hydrophobic core of the micelles showed that when these micelles were incubated at pH 8.6 and at 37 degrees C the microenvironment of pyrene became increasingly hydrated in time during this swelling phase. The results demonstrate the potential applicability of pHPMAmDL-b-PEG block copolymer micelles for the controlled delivery of hydrophobic drugs.
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