Microgel-encapsulated methylene blue for the treatment of breast cancer cells by photodynamic therapy

Anil Khanal, Minh Phuong Ngoc Bui, Seong S. Seo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Purpose: Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is gaining increasing recognition for breast cancer treatment because it offers local selectivity and reduced toxic side effects compared to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. In PDT, photosensitizer drugs are loaded in different nanomaterials and used in combination with light exposure. However, the most representative issue with PDT is the diff-culty of nanomaterials to encapsulate anticancer drugs at high doses, which results in low efficacy of the PDT treatment. Here, we proposed the development of the poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) microgel for the encapsulation of methylene blue, an anticancer drug, for its use as breast cancer treatment in MCF-7 cell line. Methods: We developed biocompatible microgels based on nonfunctionalized PNIPAM and its corresponding anionically functionalized PNIPAM and polyacrylic acid (PNIPAM-co-PAA) microgel. Methylene blue was used as the photosensitizer drug because of its ability to generate toxic reactive oxygen species upon exposure to light at 664 nm. Core PNIPAM and core/shell PNIPAM-co-PAA microgels were synthesized and characterized using ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy and dynamic light scatter-ing. The effect of methylene blue was evaluated using the MCF-7 cell line. Results: Loading of methylene blue in core PNIPAM mi-crogel was higher than that in the core/shell PNIPAM-co-PAA mi-crogel, indicating that electrostatic interactions did not play an important role in loading a cationic drug. This behavior is probably due to the skin layer inhibiting the high uptake of drugs in the PNIPAM-co-PAA microgel. Core PNIPAM microgel effectively retained the cationic drug (i.e., methylene blue) for several hours compared to core/shell PNIPAM-co-PAA and enhanced its pho-todynamic efficacy in vitro more than that of free methylene blue. Conclusion: Our results showed that the employment of core PNI-PAM and core/shell PNIPAM-co-PAA microgels enhanced the encapsulation of methylene blue. Core PNIPAM microgel released the drug more slowly than did core/shell PNIPAM-co-PAA, and it effectively inhibited the growth of MCF-7 cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-24
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Breast Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Methylene blue
  • Photochemotherapy
  • Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)


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