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    Zwitterionic-Modified Starch-Based Stealth Micelles for Prolonging Circulation Time and Reducing Macrophage Response

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    Over the last few decades, nanoparticles have been emerging as useful means to improve the therapeutic efficacy of drug delivery and medical diagnoses. However, the heterogeneity and complexity of blood as a medium is a fundamental problem; large amounts of protein can be adsorbed onto the surface of nanoparticles and cause their rapid clearance before reaching their target sites, resulting in the failure of drug delivery. To overcome this challenge, we present a rationally designed starch derivative (SB-ST-OC) with both a superhydrophilic moiety of zwitterionic sulfobetaine (SB) and a hydrophobic segment of octane (OC) as functional groups, which can self-assemble into “stealth” micelles (SSO micelles). The superhydrophilic SB kept the micelles stable against aggregation in complex media and imbued them with “stealth” properties, eventually extending their circulation time in blood. In stability and hemolysis tests the SSO micelles showed excellent protein resistance properties and hemocompatibility. Moreover, a phagocytosis test and cytokine secretion assay confirmed that the SSO micelles had less potential to trigger the activation of macrophages and were more suitable as a drug delivery candidate <i>in vivo</i>. On the basis of these results, doxorubicin (DOX), a hydrophobic drug, was used to investigate the potential application of this novel starch derivative <i>in vivo</i>. The results of the pharmacokinetic study showed that the values of the plasma area under the concentration curve (AUC) and elimination half-life (<i>T</i><sub>1/2</sub>) of the SSO micelles were higher than those of micelles without SB modifications. In conclusion, the combination of excellent protein resistance, lower macrophage activation, and longer circulation time <i>in vivo</i> makes this synthesized novel starch derivative a promising candidate as a hydrophobic drug carrier for long-term circulation <i>in vivo.</i
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