Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Joong Ho Moon

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

John Berry

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Anthony DeCaprio

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Bruce McCord

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

DeEtta Mills

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Conjugated Polymers, Nanoparticles, Drug Delivery, Cellular Labeling, Subcellular localization, Cytotoxicity

Date of Defense



Cancer remains one of the world’s most devastating diseases, with more than 10 million new cases every year. However, traditional treatments have proven insufficient for successful medical management of cancer due to the chemotherapeutics’ difficulty in achieving therapeutic concentrations at the target site, non-specific cytotoxicity to normal tissues, and limited systemic circulation lifetime. Although, a concerted effort has been placed in developing and successfully employing nanoparticle(NP)-based drug delivery vehicles successfully mitigate the physiochemical and pharmacological limitations of chemotherapeutics, work towards controlling the subcellular fate of the carrier, and ultimately its payload, has been limited. Because efficient therapeutic action requires drug delivery to specific organelles, the subcellular barrier remains critical obstacle to maximize the full potential of NP-based delivery vehicles. The aim of my dissertation work is to better understand how NP-delivery vehicles’ structural, chemical, and physical properties affect the internalization method and subcellular localization of the nanocarrier.

In this work we explored how side-chain and backbone modifications affect the conjugated polymer nanoparticle (CPN) toxicity and subcellular localization. We discovered how subtle chemical modifications had profound consequences on the polymer’s accumulation inside the cell and cellular retention. We also examined how complexation of CPN with polysaccharides affects uptake efficiency and subcellular localization.

This work also presents how changes to CPN backbone biodegradability can significantly affect the subcellular localization of the material. A series of triphenyl phosphonium-containing CPNs were synthesized and the effect of backbone modifications have on the cellular toxicity and intracellular fate of the material. A mitochondrial-specific polymer exhibiting time-dependent release is reported. Finally, we present a novel polymerization technique which allows for the controlled incorporation of electron-accepting benzothiadiazole units onto the polymer chain. This facilitates tuning CPN emission towards red emission.

The work presented here, specifically, the effect that side-chain and structure, polysaccharide formulation and CPN degradability have on material’s uptake behavior, can help maximize the full potential of NP-based delivery vehicles for improved chemotherapeutic drug delivery.





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