Hybrid Theranostic Cubosomes for Efficient NIR-Induced Photodynamic Therapy

Urszula Bazylińska, Dominika Wawrzyńczyk, Julita Kulbacka, Giacomo Picci, Livia Salvati Manni, Stephan Handschin, Marco Fornasier, Claudia Caltagirone, Raffaele Mezzenga, Sergio Murgia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, lipid bicontinuous cubic liquid-crystalline nanoparticles known as cubosomes have been under investigation because of their favorable properties as drug nanocarriers useful for anticancer treatments. Herein, we present organic/inorganic hybrid, theranostic cubosomes stabilized in water with a shell of alternate layers of chitosan, single strand DNA (model genetic material for potential gene therapy), and folic acid-chitosan conjugate (the outmost layer), coencapsulating up-converting Er3+ and Yb3+ codoped NaYF4 nanoparticles and daunorubicin. The latter acts as a chemotherapeutic drug of photosensitizing activity, while up-converting nanoparticles serve as energy harvester and diagnostic agent. Cellular uptake and NIR-induced photodynamic therapy were evaluated in vitro against human skin melanoma (MeWo) and ovarian (SKOV-3) cancer cells. Results evidenced the preferential uptake of the theranostic cubosomes in SKOV-3 cells in comparison to uptake in MeWo cells, and this effect was enhanced by the folic acid functionalization of the cubosomes surface. Nanocarriers coloaded with the hybrid fluorophores exhibited a superior NIR-induced photodynamic activity, also confirmed by the improved mitochondrial activity and the most affecting f-actin fibers of cytoskeleton. Similar results, but with higher photocytotoxicity, were detected when folic acid-functionalized cubosomes were incubated with SKOV-3 cells. Taken on the whole, these results prove these hybrid cubosomes are good candidates for the photodynamic treatment of tumor lesions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5427-5438
Number of pages12
JournalACS Nano
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Apr

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Medical Biotechnology

Free keywords

  • antitumor activity
  • daunorubicin
  • layer-by-layer
  • lipid bicontinuous cubic liquid-crystalline nanoparticles
  • MeWo cells
  • SKOV-3 cells
  • up-converting nanocrystals


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