Atherosclerotic plaques exhibit high deposition of cholesterol and macrophages. These are not only the main components of the plaques but also key inflammation-triggering sources. However, no existing therapeutics can achieve effective removal of both components within the plaques. Here, we report cargo-switching nanoparticles (CSNP) that are physicochemically designed to bind to cholesterol and release anti-inflammatory drug in the plaque microenvironment. CSNP have a core–shell structure with a core composed of an inclusion complex of methyl-β-cyclodextrin (cyclodextrin) and simvastatin (statin), and a shell of phospholipids. Upon interaction with cholesterol, which has higher affinity to cyclodextrin than statin, CSNP release statin and scavenge cholesterol instead through cargo-switching. CSNP exhibit cholesterol-sensitive multifaceted antiatherogenic functions attributed to statin release and cholesterol depletion in vitro. In mouse models of atherosclerosis, systemically injected CSNP target atherosclerotic plaques and reduce plaque content of cholesterol and macrophages, which synergistically leads to effective prevention of atherogenesis and regression of established plaques. These findings suggest that CSNP provide a therapeutic platform for interfacing with cholesterol-associated inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis.
KEYWORDS:atherosclerosis, cargo-switching, nanoparticle, cholesterol, microenvironment