School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA; Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Over the years, a plethora of materials - natural and synthetic - have been engineered at a nanoscopic level and explored for drug delivery. Nanocarriers based on such materials could improve the payload's pharmacokinetics and achieve the desired pharmacological response at the target tissue. Despite the development of rationally designed drug nanocarriers, only a handful of such formulations have been successfully translated into the clinic. The physicochemical properties (size, shape, surface chemistry, porosity, elasticity, and many others) of these nanocarriers influence its biological identity, which in presence of biological barriers in vivo, could significantly modulate the therapeutic index of its cargo and alter the desired outcome. Further, complexities associated with developing effective drug nanocarriers have led to conflicting views of its safety, permeation of biological barriers and cellular uptake. Here, in this review, we emphasize the effect of physicochemical properties of nanocarriers on their interactions with the biological milieu. The review will discuss in depth, how modulating the physicochemical properties would influence a drug nanocarrier's behavior in vivo and the mechanisms underlying these effects. The goal of this review is to summarize the design considerations based on these properties and to provide a conceptual template for achieving improved therapeutic efficacy with enhanced patient compliance.