The careful design of nanoparticles, in terms of size and morphology, is of great importance to developing effective drug delivery systems. The ability to precisely tailor nanoparticles in size and morphology during polymer self-assembly was therefore investigated. Four poly(ethylene glycol)-b-poly(N-2-benzoyloxypropyl methacrylamide) mPEG-b-p(HPMA-Bz) block copolymers with a fixed hydrophilic block of mPEG 5 kDa and a varying molecular weight of the hydrophobic p(HPMA-Bz) block (A: 17.1, B: 10.0, C: 5.2 and D: 2.7 kDa) were self-assembled into nanoparticles by nanoprecipitation under well-defined flow conditions, using microfluidics, at different concentrations. The nanoparticles from polymer A, increased in size from 55 to 90 nm using lower polymer concentrations and slower flow rates and even polymer vesicles were formed along with micelles. Similarly, nanoparticles from polymer D increased in size from 35 to 70 nm at slower flow rates and also formed vesicles along with micelles, regardless of the used concentration. Differently, polymers B and C mainly self-assembled into micelles at the different applied flow rates with negligible size difference. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that the self-assembly of mPEG-b-p(HPMA-Bz) block copolymers can be easily tailored in size and morphology using microfluidics and is therefore an attractive option for further scaled-up production activities.
Keywords: block copolymers; nanoparticles; micelles; polymersomes; HPMA; size control; nanoprecipitation; microfluidics; micromixer