SCIENCE CHINA Materials, Volume 61, Issue 11: 1444-1453(2018) https://doi.org/10.1007/s40843-018-9252-y

Supramolecular dendritic polymers for diagnostic and theranostic applications

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  • ReceivedFeb 10, 2018
  • AcceptedMar 17, 2018
  • PublishedApr 16, 2018


Supramolecular dendritic polymers (SDPs) provide a new opportunity for the precision diagnosis and treatment of diseases. SDPs are a novel class of non-covalently bonded macromolecules with highly branched structure and three-dimensional globular topology, which exhibit dynamic/reversible features and unique physical/chemical properties (e.g., high solubility, low viscosity, and numerous functional terminal groups). The reversibility of non-covalent interactions endows SDPs with the ability of facile preparation, smart responsiveness, and simple metabolism. These special characteristics determine the properties of SDPs, which are the key points for theranostic applications, including diagnosis, therapy, and theranostics. In this review, we briefly summarize the design and synthesis of SDPs with aimed structures, properties, functions as well as their present diagnostic and theranostic applications. These developments on the preparation and applications of SDPs for diagnostic and theranostic purpose promote interdisciplinary research fields of chemistry, material and biomedical science.

Funded by

the National Natural Science Foundation of China(51690151,51503122,21374062,51473093)

National Basic Research Program(2015CB931801)


This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51690151, 51503122, 21374062 and 51473093) and National Basic Research Program (2015CB931801).

Interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Contributions statement

Zhu X and Jin X provided the whole concept. Zhu X wrote the abstract, introduction and conclusion sections. Jin X wrote the synthesis, properties and self-assembly and biomedical application sections. Wu Y summarized the references. Xu G revised the manuscript. All authors contributed to the general discussion.

Author information

Yan Wu completed his BSc degree at Baoji University of Arts and Sciences in 2010 and then earned his MSc degree at Shantou University in 2013. Now, he is pursuing his PhD degree at the School of Pharmacy, Shanghai Jiao Tong University under the supervision of Prof. Xinyuan Zhu and Prof. Dawei Li. His current interests focus on the preparation of functional polymers as well as their applications in biomedical fields.

Xin Jin completed her BSc degree in Chemistry at Wuhan University in 2007. She obtained PhD degree in Polymer Physics & Chemistry at Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2013. She continued her academic research as a post-doctoral fellow in Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Currently, she is an assistant professor in Shanghai Jiao Tong University and her research interests include modification and application of hyperbranched polymers, natural polymers and polyelectrolytes.

Xinyuan Zhu received his BSc and PhD degrees at Donghua University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, respectively. Then, he spent two years in the BASF laboratory at Strasbourg University as a postdoctoral research. He was promoted as a full professor for Chemistry at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2005. His main research interests concern the dendritic polymers, supramolecular chemistry and biomaterials.


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  • Figure 1

    Building blocks and synthesis route for template-directed approach. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [28]. Copyright 2012, Wiley-VCH.

  • Figure 2

    (a) Preparation of AB2-type SHPs through self-recognition. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [34]. Copyright 2004, American Chemical Society. (b) Preparation of photoreversible A2/B3-type SHPs. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [35]. Copyright 2011, Royal Society of Chemistry.

  • Figure 3

    Preparation of supramolecular topological hybrids with head-tail shape. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [22]. Copyright 2012, American Chemical Society.

  • Figure 4

    Structure illustration of supramolecular organic-inorganic dendritic hybrid with a poly-oxometalate cluster [Gd(β2-SiW11O39)2]13− as inorganic core and hyperbranched polymer (D-3) as arms. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [47]. Copyright 2017, Wiley-VCH

  • Figure 5

    (a) Structure illustration of MRI contrast agent Gd-loaded SDPs with hydrophobic core and hydrophilic arms. (b) T1-weighted images (i) and columnar plots of mean MRI enhancement efficiency (ii) of at liver after post intravenous injection of SDPs. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [75]. Copyright 2017, Royal Society of Chemistry.

  • Figure 6

    (a) Structure illustration of cationic SDPs with controllable amine type and charge density. (b) Luciferase expression of cationic SDPs in COS-7 cell line. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [43]. Copyright 2011, Royal Society of Chemistry.

  • Figure 7

    (a) Schematic illustrations for molecular and supramolecular engineering of theranostic supramolecular PEGylated dendritic systems. (b) In vivo and ex vivo NIR imaging of nude mice bearing A549 tumor xenografts and their organs before and after 24 hours intravenous injection of saline and TSPDSs. (c) Pharmacokinetic profiles of TSPDSs and cisplatin and distribution of platinum in kidney and tumor after intravenous injection, respectively. (d) Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine level with different administrations after a treatment course of 21 days. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [76]. Copyright 2016, Ivyspring International Publisher.

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