Endothelium, a thin monolayer of specialized cells lining the lumen of blood vessels is the key regulatory interface between blood and tissues. Endothelial abnormalities are implicated in many diseases, including common acute conditions with high morbidity and mortality lacking therapy, in part because drugs and drug carriers have no natural endothelial affinity. Precise endothelial drug delivery may improve management of these conditions. Using ligands of molecules exposed to the bloodstream on the endothelial surface enables design of diverse targeted endothelial nanomedicine agents. Target molecules and binding epitopes must be accessible to drug carriers, carriers must be free of harmful effects, and targeting should provide desirable sub-cellular addressing of the drug cargo. The roster of current candidate target molecules for endothelial nanomedicine includes peptidases and other enzymes, cell adhesion molecules and integrins, localized in different domains of the endothelial plasmalemma and differentially distributed throughout the vasculature. Endowing carriers with an affinity to specific endothelial epitopes enables an unprecedented level of precision of control of drug delivery: binding to selected endothelial cell phenotypes, cellular addressing and duration of therapeutic effects. Features of nanocarrier design such as choice of epitope and ligand control delivery and effect of targeted endothelial nanomedicine agents. Pathological factors modulate endothelial targeting and uptake of nanocarriers. Selection of optimal binding sites and design features of nanocarriers are key controllable factors that can be iteratively engineered based on their performance from in vitro to pre-clinical in vivo experimental models. Targeted endothelial nanomedicine agents provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic effects unattainable by non-targeted counterparts in animal models of common acute severe human disease conditions. The results of animal studies provide the basis for the challenging translation endothelial nanomedicine into the clinical domain.
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