ACS Eng Au. 2022 Aug 17;2(4):274-294. doi: 10.1021/acsengineeringau.2c00008. Epub 2022 May 3.
Drug delivery platforms are anticipated to have biocompatible and bioinert surfaces. PEGylation of drug carriers is the most approved method since it improves water solubility and colloid stability and decreases the drug vehicles’ interactions with blood components. Although this approach extends their biocompatibility, biorecognition mechanisms prevent them from biodistribution and thus efficient drug transfer. Recent studies have shown (poly)zwitterions to be alternatives for PEG with superior biocompatibility. (Poly)zwitterions are super hydrophilic, mainly stimuli-responsive, easy to functionalize and they display an extremely low protein adsorption and long biodistribution time. These unique characteristics make them already promising candidates as drug delivery carriers. Furthermore, since they have highly dense charged groups with opposite signs, (poly)zwitterions are intensely hydrated under physiological conditions. This exceptional hydration potential makes them ideal for the design of therapeutic vehicles with antifouling capability, i.e., preventing undesired sorption of biologics from the human body in the drug delivery vehicle. Therefore, (poly)zwitterionic materials have been broadly applied in stimuli-responsive “intelligent” drug delivery systems as well as tumor-targeting carriers because of their excellent biocompatibility, low cytotoxicity, insignificant immunogenicity, high stability, and long circulation time. To tailor (poly)zwitterionic drug vehicles, an interpretation of the structural and stimuli-responsive behavior of this type of polymer is essential. To this end, a direct study of molecular-level interactions, orientations, configurations, and physicochemical properties of (poly)zwitterions is required, which can be achieved via molecular modeling, which has become an influential tool for discovering new materials and understanding diverse material phenomena. As the essential bridge between science and engineering, molecular simulations enable the fundamental understanding of the encapsulation and release behavior of intelligent drug-loaded (poly)zwitterion nanoparticles and can help us to systematically design their next generations. When combined with experiments, modeling can make quantitative predictions. This perspective article aims to illustrate key recent developments in (poly)zwitterion-based drug delivery systems. We summarize how to use predictive multiscale molecular modeling techniques to successfully boost the development of intelligent multifunctional (poly)zwitterions-based systems.