The fabrication of highly efficient nonviral gene carriers with low cytotoxicity remains a challenge in gene therapy. This paper reports a facile strategy to combine the advantages of gold nanorods (Au NRs) and polycations through surface functionalization. Different Au NR carriers with a controlled amount of poly(2-(N,N-dimethyl amino)ethyl methacrylate) (PDAEMA) brushes could be readily synthesized via surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization to achieve optimized nanohybrids for gene transfection. The obtained gene carriers demonstrate much higher gene transfection efficiency and lower cytotoxicity compared with polyethylenimine (∼25kDa, gold standard of nonviral gene vector) in both COS7 and HepG2 cell lines. In addition, the potential of the PDMAEMA-grafted Au NR carriers to be utilized as a computed tomography contrast agent for the imaging of cancer cells has also been investigated. This strategy may realize the gene therapy and real-time imaging within one nanostructure and facilitate biomedical applications.
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