In the study, a novel chitosan (CS) derivative conjugated with multiple galactose residues in an antennary fashion (Gal-m-CS) was synthesized. A galactosylated CS (Gal-CS) was also prepared by directly coupling lactobionic acid on CS. Using an iontropic gelation method, CS and the synthesized Gal-CS and Gal-m-CS were used to prepare nanoparticles (CS, Gal-CS, and Gal-m-CS NPs) for targeting hepatoma cells. TEM examinations showed that the morphology of all three types of NPs was spherical in shape. No aggregation or precipitation of NPs in an aqueous environment was observed during storage for all studied groups, as a result of the electrostatic repulsion between the positively charged NPs. Little fluorescence was observed in HepG2 cells after incubation with the FITC-labeled CS NPs. The intensity of fluorescence observed in HepG2 cells incubated with the Gal-m-CS NPs was stronger than that incubated with the Gal-CS NPs. These results indicated that the prepared Gal-m-CS NPs had the highest specific interaction with HepG2 cells among all studied groups, via the ligand-receptor-mediated recognition.
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