Brain glioblastoma and neurodegenerative diseases are still largely untreated due to the inability of most drugs to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Nanoparticles have emerged as promising tools for drug delivery applications to the brain; in particular carbon nanotubes (CNTs) that have shown an intrinsic ability to cross the BBB in vitro and in vivo. Angiopep-2 (ANG), a ligand for the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein-1 (LRP1), has also shown promising results as a targeting ligand for brain delivery using nanoparticles (NPs). Here, we investigate the ability of ANG-targeted chemically-functionalised multi-walled carbon nanotubes (f-MWNTs) to cross the BBB in vitro and in vivo. ANG was conjugated to wide and thin f-MWNTs creating w-MWNT-ANG and t-MWNT-ANG, respectively. All f-MWNTs were radiolabelled to facilitate quantitative analyses by γ-scintigraphy. ANG conjugation to f-MWNTs enhanced BBB transport of w- and t-MWNTs-ANG compared to their non-targeted equivalents using an in vitro co-cultured BBB model consisting of primary porcine brain endothelial cells (PBEC) and primary rat astrocytes. Additionally, following intravenous administration w-MWNTs-ANG showed significantly higher whole brain uptake than the non-targeted w-MWNT in vivo reaching ~ 2% injected dose per g of brain (%ID/g) within the first hour post-injection. Furthermore, using a syngeneic glioma model, w-MWNT-ANG showed enhanced uptake in glioma brain compared to normal brain at 24 h post-injection. t-MWNTs-ANG, on the other hand, showed higher brain accumulation than w-MWNTs. However, no significant differences were observed between t-MWNT and t-MWNT-ANG indicating the importance of f-MWNTs diameter towards their brain accumulation. The inherent brain accumulation ability of f-MWNTs coupled with improved brain-targeting by ANG favours the future clinical applications of f-MWNT-ANG to deliver active therapeutics for brain glioma therapy.
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