Functionalized keratin as nanotechnology-based drug delivery system for the pharmacological treatment of osteosarcoma

Elisa Martella, Claudia Ferroni, Andrea Guerrini, Marco Ballestri, Marta Columbaro, Spartaco Santi, Giovanna Sotgiu, Massimo Serra, Davide Maria Donati, Enrico Lucarelli, Greta Varchi, Serena Duchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Osteosarcoma therapy might be moving toward nanotechnology-based drug delivery systems to reduce the cytotoxicity of antineoplastic drugs and improve their pharmacokinetics. In this paper, we present, for the first time, an extensive chemical and in vitro characterization of dual-loaded photo-and chemo-active keratin nanoparticles as a novel drug delivery system to treat osteosarcoma. The nanoparticles are prepared from high molecular weight and hydrosoluble keratin, suitably functionalized with the photosensitizer Chlorin-e6 (Ce6) and then loaded with the chemotherapeutic drug Paclitaxel (PTX). This multi-modal PTX-Ce6@Ker nanoformulation is prepared by both drug-induced aggregation and desolvation methods, and a comprehensive physicochemical characterization is performed. PTX-Ce6@Ker efficacy is tested on osteosarcoma tumor cell lines, including chemo-resistant cells, using 2D and 3D model systems. The single and combined contributions of PTX and Ce6 is evaluated, and results show that PTX retains its activity while being vehiculated through keratin. Moreover, PTX and Ce6 act in an additive manner, demonstrating that the combination of the cytostatic blockage of PTX and the oxidative damage of ROS upon light irradiation have a far superior effect compared to singularly administered PTX or Ce6. Our findings provide the proof of principle for the development of a novel, nanotechnology-based drug delivery system for the treatment of osteosarcoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3670
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 20 2018


  • Bone
  • Chlorin-e6
  • Keratin
  • Musculoskeletal tumor
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Paclitaxel
  • Photodynamic therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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