Synthetic molecular motor activates drug delivery from polymersomes

Ainoa Guinart, Maria Korpidou, Daniel Doellerer, Gianni Pacella, Marc C A Stuart, Ionel Adrian Dinu, Giuseppe Portale, Cornelia Palivan*, Ben L Feringa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


The design of stimuli-responsive systems in nanomedicine arises from the challenges associated with the unsolved needs of current molecular drug delivery. Here, we present a delivery system with high spatiotemporal control and tunable release profiles. The design is based on the combination of an hydrophobic synthetic molecular rotary motor and a PDMS-b-PMOXA diblock copolymer to create a responsive self-assembled system. The successful incorporation and selective activation by low-power visible light (λ = 430 nm, 6.9 mW) allowed to trigger the delivery of a fluorescent dye with high efficiencies (up to 75%). Moreover, we proved the ability to turn on and off the responsive behavior on demand over sequential cycles. Low concentrations of photoresponsive units (down to 1 mol% of molecular motor) are shown to effectively promote release. Our system was also tested under relevant physiological conditions using a lung cancer cell line and the encapsulation of an Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug. Similar levels of cell viability are observed compared to the free given drug showing the potential of our platform to deliver functional drugs on request with high efficiency. This work provides an important step for the application of synthetic molecular machines in the next generation of smart delivery systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2301279120
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 4-Jul-2023


  • Molecular motor
  • Polymersome
  • Drug delivery
  • Light-responsive
  • Cancer

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