Harnessing endogenous stimuli for responsive materials in theranostics

Alexander B. Cook, Paolo Decuzzi (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Materials that respond to endogenous stimuli are being leveraged to enhance spatiotemporal control in a range of biomedical applications from drug delivery to diagnostic tools. The design of materials that undergo morphological or chemical changes in response to specific biological cues or pathologies will be an important area of research for improving efficacies of existing therapies and imaging agents, while also being promising for developing personalized theranostic systems. Internal stimuliresponsive systems can be engineered across length scales from nanometers to macroscopic and can respond to endogenous signals such as enzymes, pH, glucose, ATP, hypoxia, redox signals, and nucleic acids by incorporating synthetic bio-inspired moieties or natural building blocks. This Review will summarize response mechanisms and fabrication strategies used in internal stimuli-responsive materials with a focus on drug delivery and imaging for a broad range of pathologies, including cancer, diabetes, vascular disorders, inflammation, and microbial infections. We will also discuss observed challenges, future research directions, and clinical translation aspects of these responsive materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2068-2098
Number of pages31
JournalACS Nano
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partially supported by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement no. 616695, by the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC) under the individual investigator grant no. 17664, and by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 754490.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors.


  • Biological stimuli
  • Enzymes
  • Formulations
  • Materials
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanoparticles
  • PH
  • Responsive polymers


Dive into the research topics of 'Harnessing endogenous stimuli for responsive materials in theranostics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this