Intracellular microenvironment-responsive label-free autofluorescent nanogels for traceable gene delivery

Bingyang Shi, Hu Zhang, Shi Zhang Qiao, Jingxiu Bi, Sheng Dai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Gene therapy presents a unique opportunity for the treatment of genetic diseases, but the lack of multifunctional delivery systems has hindered its clinical applications. Here, a new delivery vector, autofluorescent polyethyleneimine (PEI) nanogels, for highly efficient and traceable gene delivery is developed. Different from commercial high-molecular-weight PEI, the cationic nanogels are noncytotoxic and able to be fragmented due to their unique intracellular microenvironment-responsive structures. The biodegradable nanogels can effectively load plasmid DNA (pDNA), and the self-assembled polyplexes can be cleaved after cellular uptake to improve gene transfection efficiency. Most importantly, the nanogels and the nanogel/pDNA polyplexes are autofluorescent. The fluorescence is stable in blood plasma and responsive to the intracellular microenvironment. The breakup of the nanogels or polyplexes leads to the loss of fluorescence, and thus the gene delivery and carrier biodegradation processes can be monitored. The reported multifunctional system demonstrates excellent biocompatibility, high transfection efficiency, responsive biodegradability, controlled gene release, label-free and simultaneous fluorescence tracking, which will provide a new platform for future scientific investigation and practical implications in gene therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1839-1848
Number of pages10
JournalAdvanced Healthcare Materials
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • gene delivery carriers
  • intracellular environment
  • label-free autofluorescence
  • nanogels
  • traceable
  • Nanogels
  • Label-free autofluorescence
  • Intracellular environment
  • Gene delivery carriers
  • Traceable


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