ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering
Polymeric microparticles are promising biomaterial platforms for targeting macrophages in the treatment of disease. This study investigates microparticles formed by a thiol-Michael addition step-growth polymerization reaction with tunable physiochemical properties and their uptake by macrophages. The hexafunctional thiol monomer dipentaerythritol hexa-3-mercaptopropionate (DPHMP) and tetrafunctional acrylate monomer di(trimethylolpropane) tetraacrylate (DTPTA) were reacted in a stepwise dispersion polymerization, achieving tunable monodisperse particles over a size range (1–10 μm) relevant for targeting macrophages. An off-stoichiometry thiol-acrylate reaction afforded facile secondary chemical functionalization to create particles with different chemical moieties. Uptake of the microparticles by RAW 264.7 macrophages was highly dependent on treatment time, particle size, and particle chemistry with amide, carboxyl, and thiol terminal chemistries. The amide-terminated particles were non-inflammatory, while the carboxyl- and thiol-terminated particles induced pro-inflammatory cytokine production in conjunction with particle phagocytosis. Finally, a lung-specific application was explored through time-dependent uptake of amide-terminated particles by human alveolar macrophages in vitro and mouse lungs in vivo without inducing inflammation. The findings demonstrate a promising microparticulate delivery vehicle that is cyto-compatible, is non-inflammatory, and exhibits high rates of uptake by macrophages.