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Controlling nanoemulsion surface chemistry with poly(2-oxazoline) amphiphiles


Emulsions are dynamic materials that have been extensively employed within pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries. However, their use beyond conventional applications has been hindered by difficulties in surface functionalization, and an inability to selectively control physicochemical properties. Here, we employ custom poly(2-oxazoline) block copolymers to overcome these limitations. We demonstrate that poly(2-oxazoline) copolymers can effectively stabilize nanoscale droplets of hydrocarbon and perfluorocarbon in water. The controlled living polymerization of poly(2-oxazoline)s allows for the incorporation of chemical handles into the surfactants such that covalent modification of the emulsion surface can be performed. Through post-emulsion modification of these new surfactants, we are able to access nanoemulsions with modified surface chemistries, yet consistent sizes. By decoupling size and surface charge, we explore structure-activity relationships involving the cellular uptake of nanoemulsions in both macrophage and non-macrophage cell lines. We conclude that the cellular uptake and cytotoxicity of poly(2-oxazoline)-stabilized droplets can be systematically tuned via chemical modification of emulsion surfaces.

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