In Vivo Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Microwave Thermotherapy of Cancer Using Novel Chitosan Microcapsules
- Shunsong Tang†1, 2, 3,
- Qijun Du†2,
- Tianlong Liu2,
- Longfei Tan2,
- Meng Niu1,
- Long Gao1,
- Zhongbing Huang3Email author,
- Changhui Fu2,
- Tengchuang Ma1,
- Xianwei Meng2Email author and
- Haibo Shao1Email author
© The Author(s). 2016
Received: 18 May 2016
Accepted: 24 June 2016
Published: 15 July 2016
Herein, we develop a novel integrated strategy for the preparation of theranostic chitosan microcapsules by encapsulating ion liquids (ILs) and Fe3O4 nanoparticles. The as-prepared chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules exhibit not only significant heating efficacy in vitro under microwave (MW) irradiation but also obvious enhancement of T2-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, besides the excellent biocompatibility in physiological environments. The chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules show ideal temperature rise and therapeutic efficiency when applied to microwave thermal therapy in vivo. Complete tumor elimination is realizing after MW irradiation at an ultralow power density (1.8 W/cm2), while neither the MW group nor the chitosan microcapsule group has significant influence on the tumor development. The applicability of the chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules as an efficient contrast agent for MR imaging is proved in vivo. Moreover, the result of in vivo systematic toxicity shows that chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules have no acute fatal toxicity. Our study presents an interesting type of multifunctional platform developed by chitosan microcapsule promising for imaging-guided MW thermotherapy.
In recent years, microwave (MW) thermotherapy received considerable attention due to many advantages including the ability to achieve effective ablation of large tumors and less heat sink effects, when compared with other cancer therapies such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery [1–6]. For the clinical application of MW thermotherapy, the main challenge is achieving a balance between complete ablation of tumor tissue and minimum damage to surrounding vital organs [7–11]. Nanomaterials have emerged with the unique characteristics of localization of the MW irradiation, which results in improving the efficacy of MW hyperthermia and eliminating the limitations. Carbon nanotubes and ferrite compounds have been utilized as MW agents for MW thermotherapy [12–16], whose heating efficacy was too low to use in vivo. Microwave thermal therapy uses dielectric hysteresis to produce heat. Heating of the tissue is based on agitation of water molecules or ions under an electromagnetic field of microwave frequency, rather than relying upon current flow and resistive heating . Two main mechanisms are identified that trigger heating by microwave irradiation: dipolar polarization mechanism and ionic conduction mechanism [18–20]. The ionic conduction process represents a much higher heat-generating efficacy than the dipolar polarization. Because of their ionic character and high polarizability, room-temperature ionic liquids (ILs) are extremely susceptible to microwave irradiation [21–25]. As excellent absorbers, ILs show highly efficient microwave heating, which provide superior benefits for the application of tumor MW thermotherapy. In order to deliver the liquid-phase absorbers to the tumor site, encapsulation of the ILs with biocompatible microcapsules is one of the most promising resolutions. The microcapsules have a compact shell structure, which can confine the oscillation of IL leading to more serious friction and collision of molecules and ions than the free IL. Thus efficient, rapid, and selective heating occurs in the microcapsules.
Chitosan-based materials have sparked considerable interest due to their good biocompatibility, biodegradability, and low production costs, all of which result in their potential use in various biological and clinical applications, including slimming, wound dressing, and tissue engineering, especially those involving drug delivery [26–29]. Chitosan is composed of amido and hydroxyl groups, which can be combined with polymer and metal. Bhise et al. have designed sustained release systems for the anionic drug naproxen using chitosan as drug carrier matrix . Sun et al. have designed enoxaparin/chitosan nanoparticulate delivery systems, providing very stable complexes that led to a significantly improved drug uptake . Guo et al. have developed chitosan-coated hollow CuS nanoparticles that assemble the cytosine-guanine oligodeoxy nucleotides for photothermal therapy in a mouse breast cancer model . As compared to chitosan particles with single modality, dual modalities with both the therapeutic and imaging function offer great potential to satisfy the increasing requirements in advanced tumor theranostic platform. In the platform, the imaging modality can be used as contrast agents to light up tumors and the therapeutic modality can be used to destroy tumors. However, success on preparation of chitosan microcapsules with payload of MRI contrast agents and MW absorbers for imaging-guided MW thermotherapy, to best of our knowledge, has not yet been reported.
In this work, we have developed a facile strategy to construct chitosan-based microcapsules as MW susceptible agent for tumor thermotherapy and contrast agents for enhanced tumor MR imaging. The chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules showed high MW conversion efficiency in vitro MW heating experiment. In vitro and in vivo toxicity results uncovered that these microcapsules exhibited good biocompatibility. For use in a mice model, the as-prepared microcapsules showed dramatically enhanced MW thermotherapy outcomes in vivo. It is the first report that using chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules to kill the H22 tumor cells in mice with 100 % of tumor elimination. In vivo imaging results demonstrated that these chitosan/Fe3O4@ILmicrocapsules can achieve MR imaging-guided MW thermotherapy. Our study highlights the great potential of chitosan-based microcapsules for cancer theranostic applications.
Ethylene glycol, ferric chloride hexahydrate (FeCl3·6H2O), sodium acetate (NaAc), sodium citrate, acetate, glutaraldehyde, and chitosan (deacetylation degree = 80–95 %) were purchased from Sinopharm Chemical Reagent Beijing Co., Ltd. Soybean oil was obtained from Beijing Guchuan Oil Co. Span 80 was purchased from Institute of Tianjin Jinke Fine Chemicals. 1-Butyl-3-methylimidazolium tetrafluoroborate (IL) was purchased from Shanghai Chengjie Chemical Co., Ltd. Mercaptopropionic acid (MPA) was obtained purchased from Alfa Aesar. Hematoxylin and eosin (H&E stain) were obtained from Beijing Solarbio Science and Technology (China). All chemicals were used directly in our work without further purification.
Preparation of Fe3O4 NPs
The Fe3O4 NPs were prepared by a gradient solvothermal method. In a typical methods, 0.5 g FeCl3·6H2O was dissolved in 5 mL ethylene glycol under stirring. Then, 0.15 g sodium citrate and 0.9 g NaAc were completely dissolved in 10 mL ethylene glycol. And the above solutions were mixed together under stirring and the pH value was adjusted to 7. The solutions were translated into a 50-mL Teflon lined stainless steel autoclave and heated at 200 °C for 4 h. The black product was magnetically collected and rinsed for four times with deionized water and absolute ethanol, respectively, and then dried at 50 °C for 24 h.
Preparation of Chitosan/Fe3O4@IL Microcapsules
Chitosan was completely dissolved in deionized water with 3 % acetate, 0.02 g Fe3O4 NPs, and 8 % ILs at a concentration of 0.045 g/mL and marked as water phase. Fifty-milliliter soybean oil and 1.2 mL Span 80 were mixed well and marked as oil phase. Ten-milliliter water phase was slowly added into oil phase under stirring at 1200 r/min for 10 min to form water/oil emulsion (Fig. 1a). Then, 1 mL 50 % glutaraldehyde was added into the emulsion and heated at 60 °C for 60 min. Finally, the microcapsules was collected by washing for four times with deionized water and absolute ethanol, respectively, followed by drying under 45 °C for 24 h.
The morphology of as-prepared microcapsules was characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM, S-4300, Hitachi). Energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) was also recorded by Hitachi S-4800 SEM. The surface functional groups of the microcapsules were employed by Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (FT-IR, Varian, Model 3100 Excalibur). Thermogravimetric analyses were performed on a thermal analyzer (TG, ICES-001, Canadian) in the range 25–800 °C with a heating rate of 10 °C/min in nitrogen atmosphere. Canon DS126231 digital camera was recorded to take the tumor photographs. The UV/vis absorption spectra were measured by a spectrophotometer (JASCO V-570) at room temperature. Magnetic measurements were investigated by a magnetometer (Model PPMS-9).
In Vitro MW Heating Experiment
In the MW heating experiment, the as-prepared microcapsules were diluted to 1 mL by saline solution at a concentration of 50 mg/mL. Then, the solution was added into a 12-well plate with a thin bottom and exposed to MW irradiation (1.8 W, 5 min, Beijing Muheyu Electronics Co., LTD). The temperature of the solution was detected with a fiber thermometers (Beijing Dongfangruizhe Technology Co., LTD).
In Vitro Cytotoxicity
Fresh blood was collected from rabbit’s heart in a 10 mL centrifuge tube, containing EDTA as the anticoagulant (anticoagulant to blood ratio, 1:9, v/v). The whole blood was centrifuged and washed with PBS for three times and rediluted in PBS, to give a 2 % erythrocyte suspension. 0.5 mL microcapsules were added into glass tubes, followed by the addition of 0.5 mL erythrocyte suspension and kept at room temperature for 3 h. Subsequently, all the samples were centrifuged at 10,000 rpm for 3 min. The hemoglobin released from the erythrocytes in the supernatant was determined at 570 nm by an ultraviolet spectrophotometer. Distilled water and PBS solution were used as a positive control (100 % lysis) and negative control (0 % lysis), respectively. The content of hemolysis rate (%) was determined as following formula: Hemolysis rate (%) = (tested sample − negative control)/(positive control − negative control) × 100. Triplicate samples were repeated and the values were averaged.
The viability of cells were evaluated by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenylte-trazolium bromide (MTT) assays. Briefly, HepG2 cells were plated out at a concentration of 4 × 104 cells/mL in 96-well plate and incubated for 24 h at 37 °C with 5 % CO2. Then, different concentrations of microcapsules were added and incubated for 24 h. The control group was only incubated with HepG2 cells. MTT-phosphate saline-buffered solution (20 μL) was then added and incubated for another 4 h. Finally, the medium were removed and 150 mL dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) was added into each well. The absorbance of the suspension was recorded by a scanning multiwall spectrometer (Multiskan MK3 Thermo). The cell viability (%) = (absorbance of experimental)/(absorbance of control groups) × 100. All of the experiments were repeated five times for each group.
MW Heating Therapy
Experimentation with animals was governed by the Regulations of Experimental Animals of Beijing Authority and approved by the Animal Ethics Committee of the Peking University.
All ICR mice were obtained from Vital River Laboratory Animal Technology Co. Ltd., Beijing, and used under the guidelines of the Institutional Animal Care. An infrared thermal mapping apparatus (FLIR SC620) with MW apparatus (Beijing Muheyu Electronics Co., LTD) were used to irradiate tumors in our experiment. To develop H22 tumors, 107 H22 cells (0.1 mL) were injected in the right axillary region of each mice. When the size of the tumor reached to the 300 mm3, microcapsules were intratumorally injected at the concentration of 200 mg/kg. After the injection of microcapsules for 1 hour, the tumor of each mouse was then irradiated by the MW at the power density of 1.8 W/cm2 for 5 min. There were four groups of mice (control, MW, chitosan/Fe3O4@IL + MW, chitosan/Fe3O4@IL) with five mice for each group. The tumor sizes were measured by a vernier caliper every 3 days and calculated as the volume (V) = (length) × (width)2/2. After 17 days of therapy, mice were sacrificed and the tumor tissues in each group were weighed.
T2-weighted MR imaging was obtained by using a 3.0 T MR imaging instrument at room temperature (Signa HDx; General Electric Medical Systems, USA). Dilutions of microcapsules in water with different concentrations as a contrast agent were placed in 4.0 mL eppendorf tubes for T2-weight MR imaging. Relativity values of R 2 were calculated through the curve fitting of 1/T2 relaxation time versus the microcapsules concentration. For in vivo MR imaging, 10-mg microcapsules were dispersed in 0.2 mL saline solution, then chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules (200 mg/kg) were intratumoral injected into the H22 tumor-bearing mice and then taken for the T2-weighted MR imaging tests.
In Vivo Systematic Toxicity
A total of 20 healthy ICR mice were randomly divided into three groups and injected subcutaneously in the axillary region with 2000 mg/kg, 200 mg/kg, and without treatment. Body weight was measured every 3 days by electronic scale. After 17 days, mice were sacrificed for performing a full necropsy. Organs (including liver, spleen, lung, and kidney) were harvested, fixed in 10 % formalin, embedded in paraffin, sectioned, stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) for histological examination using standard techniques, and observed by a optical fluorescence microscope (Nikon Eclipse Ti-S, CCD: Ri1).
Results and Discussion
Synthesis and Characterization of Microcapsules
FT-IR analysis was carried out to confirm the possible groups of chitosan microcapsules. As shown in Fig. 1c, the characteristic absorption peaks at 1634, 1063, and 523 cm−1 were only observed in the chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules, which are assigned to C–C stretching vibrations of the imidazolium ring, asymmetric stretching vibrations of BF4 − and out-plane C–H bending vibrations of imidazolium ring, respectively [33, 34]. These distinct peaks suggest the presence of IL. The elemental in microcapsules was carried out by EDS. Additional file 1: Figure S2 shows the EDS spectra of chitosan microcapsules, and only in chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules shows the existence of F element. Moreover, as presented in Additional file 1: Figure S3, after the final thermal decomposition, the percentages of weight of the chitosan, chitosan/Fe3O4, and chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules were 16.49, 21.54, and 23.79 %, respectively. The higher residual of content of the chitosan/Fe3O4 and chitosan/Fe3O4@IL is certainly attributable to the Fe3O4 and Fe3O4@IL in the microcapsules, respectively.
An important feature of IL was the MW-induced thermal effect, which could be used for ablation of tumors. The temperature elevation of microcapsules was investigated under MW irradiation (1.8 W/cm−2) for 5 min. Figure 1d shows the temperature of the aqueous dispersion of microcapsules as a function of irradiation time. A rapid temperature increase of the chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules when exposed to MW irradiation was observed up to a high level (ΔT = 25.4 °C). However, the water, saline, chitosan, and chitosan/Fe3O4groups showed much less temperature change (ΔT = 7.8 °C, ΔT = 17.4 °C, and ΔT = 17.5 °C, respectively), suggesting that either saline or chitosan/Fe3O4 microcapsules had less effect on the temperature elevation. MW could directly excite ILs in chitosan microcapsules, which led to significantly heating [35–39]. The temperature elevation suggested that chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules could act as an efficient MW susceptible agent for tumor ablation.
In Vitro Cell Experiments
In Vivo Cancer MW Therapy
Next, the in vivo therapeutic efficacy of microcapsules-induced MW cancer treatment was investigated. Four groups of H22 tumor-bearing mice with five mice per group were used in our experiment. For the treatment groups, tumors were intratumorally injected with chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules (200 mg/kg) and then irradiated by the MW at a power density of 1.8 W/cm2 for 5 min (Chitosan/Fe3O4@IL + MW). Other control groups of mice included untreated mice (Control), mice with chitosan/Fe3O4@ILmicrocapsule injection without MW irradiation (Chitosan/Fe3O4@IL), and mice with MW irradiation without chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules injection (MW). The tumor sizes were measured by a caliper every 3 days after treatment. As shown in Fig. 3c, d and Additional file 1: Figure S4, we found that tumors treated with chitosan/Fe3O4@ILmicrocapsules were effectively ablated after MW irradiation. However, tumor in other control groups showed partially damaged and exhibited a similar growth speed, suggesting that either MW irradiation (1.8 W/cm2) or chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsule injection by itself does not affect the tumor development (Fig. 3c, d and Additional file 1: Figure S4). Our results demonstrate that chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules would be a powerful MW agent for effective tumor ablation.
In Vivo Systematic Toxicity
In summary, we have successfully fabricated a new generation of MW theranostic agent based on chitosan microcapsules, which could be used for MR imaging-guided MW thermotherapy of cancer. The hemolysis rate and HepG2 cells viability test with chitosan/Fe3O4@IL presented good biocompatibility when their concentration were less than 2000 mg/mL and less than 1000 mg/mL, respectively. The tumor cells were effectively ablated using low power density (1.8 W/cm2) upon a short irradiation time (5 min). Besides, the use of these well-prepared chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules as MR contrast agents was proved. Our design and the construction of chitosan/Fe3O4@IL microcapsules could provide more opportunities for further MW thermotherapy applications.
The authors acknowledge the financial support from the National Hi-Technology Research and Development Program (863 Program) (Nos. 2013AA032201 and 2012AA022701), Beijing Natural Science Foundation (No. 4161003), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (61171049, 31400854, 51202260 and 81201814), and Project of Key Laboratory of Liaoning Province Education Department (LZ2015075).
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