The design and synthesis of smart nanomaterials can provide interesting potential applications for biomedical purposes from bioimaging to drug delivery. Manufacturing multifunctional systems in a way to carry bioactive molecules, like peptide nucleic acids able to recognize specific targets in living cells, represents an achievement towards the development of highly selective tools for both diagnosis and therapeutics. This work describes a very first example of the use of zeolite nanocrystals as multifunctional nanocarriers to deliver simultaneously PNA and organic molecules into living cells. Zeolite-L nanocrystals are functionalized by covalently attaching the PNA probes onto the surface, while the channel system is filled with fluorescent guest molecules. The cellular uptake of the PNA/Zeolite-L hybrid material is then significantly increased by coating the whole system with a thin layer of biodegradable poly-L-lysine. The delivery of DAPI as a model drug molecule, inserted into the zeolite pores, is also demonstrated to occur in the cells, proving the multifunctional ability of the system. Using this zeolite nanosystem carrying PNA probes designed to target specific RNA sequences of interest in living cells could open new possibilities for theranostic and gene therapy applications.
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