Intracellular drug delivery by mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs) carrying hydrophilic and hydrophobic fluorophores as model drug cargo is demonstrated on 2D cellular and 3D tumor organoid level. Two different MSN designs, chosen on the basis of the characteristics of the loaded cargo, were used: MSNs with a surface-grown poly(ethylene imine), PEI, coating only for hydrophobic cargo and MSNs with lipid bilayers covalently coupled to the PEI layer as a diffusion barrier for hydrophilic cargo. First, the effect of hydrophobicity corresponding to loading degree (hydrophobic cargo) as well as surface charge (hydrophilic cargo) on intracellular drug release was studied on the cellular level. All incorporated agents were able to release to varying degrees from the endosomes into the cytoplasm in a loading degree (hydrophobic) or surface charge (hydrophilic) dependent manner as detected by live cell imaging. When administered to organotypic 3D tumor models, the hydrophilic versus hydrophobic cargo-carrying MSNs showed remarkable differences in labeling efficiency, which in this case also corresponds to drug delivery efficacy in 3D. The obtained results could thus indicate design aspects to be taken into account for the development of efficacious intracellular drug delivery systems, especially in the translation from standard 2D culture to more biologically relevant organotypic 3D cultures.
- 3D cell culture
- fluorescent imaging probes
- MDA-MB 231 breast cancer cells
- mesoporous silica nanoparticles
- intracellular transport