Open Access Research

Novel water-soluble polyurethane nanomicelles for cancer chemotherapy: physicochemical characterization and cellular activities

Ahmad Yari Khosroushahi1, Hossein Naderi-Manesh1*, Hamid Yeganeh3, Jaleh Barar24 and Yadollah Omidi24*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Bioscience, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

2 Research Centre for Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

3 Faculty of Polymer Science, Iran Polymer and Petrochemical Institute (IPPI), Tehran, Iran

4 Ovarian Cancer Research Center, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA

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Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2012, 10:2  doi:10.1186/1477-3155-10-2

Published: 5 January 2012



Efficient delivery of anticancer chemotherapies such as paclitaxel (PTX) can improve treatment strategy in a variety of tumors such as breast and ovarian cancers. Accordingly, researches on polymeric nanomicelles continue to find suitable delivery systems. However, due to biocompatibility concerns, a few micellar nanoformulations have exquisitely been translated into clinical uses. Here, we report the synthesis of novel water-soluble nanomicelles using bioactive polyurethane (PU) polymer and efficient delivery of PTX in the human breast cancer MCF-7 cells.


The amphiphilic polyurethane was prepared through formation of urethane bounds between hydroxyl groups in poly (tetramethylene ether) glycol (PTMEG) and dimethylol propionic acid with isocyanate groups in toluene diisocyanate (TDI). The free isocyanate groups were blocked with phenol, while the free carboxyl groups of dimethylol propionic acid were reacted with triethylamine to attain ionic centers in the polymer backbone. These hydrophobic PTMEG blocks displayed self-assembly forming polymeric nanomicelles in water. The PTX loaded PU nanomicelles showed suitable physical stability, negative zeta potential charge (-43) and high loading efficiency (80%) with low level of critical micelle concentration (CMC). In vitro drug release profile showed a faster rate of drug liberation at pH 5.4 as compared to that of pH 7.4, implying involvement of a pH-sensitive mechanism for drug release from the nanomicelles. The kinetic of release exquisitely obeyed the Higuchi model, confirming involvement of diffusion and somewhat erosion at pH 5.4. These nanomicelles significantly inhibited the growth and proliferation of the human breast cancer MCF-7 cells, leading them to apoptosis. The real time RT-PCR analysis confirmed the activation of apoptosis as result of liberation of cytochrome c in the cells treated with the PTX loaded PU nanomicelles. The comet assay analysis showed somewhat DNA fragmentation in the treated cells.


Based upon these findings, we propose that the bioactive waterborne polyurethane nanomicelles can be used as an effective nanocarrier for delivery of anticancer chemotherapies such as paclitaxel.

Bioactive biocompatible polymer; Cancer chemotherapy; Nanomicelle; Nanoparticle; Polyurethane; Paclitaxel