Theranostics 2021; 11(1):164-180. doi:10.7150/thno.47841

Research Paper

Macrophage membrane functionalized biomimetic nanoparticles for targeted anti-atherosclerosis applications

Yi Wang1,2*, Kang Zhang1*, Tianhan Li1, Ali Maruf1, Xian Qin1, Li Luo1, Yuan Zhong1, Juhui Qiu1, Sean McGinty3, Giuseppe Pontrelli4, Xiaoling Liao2✉, Wei Wu1✉, Guixue Wang1✉

1. Key Laboratory for Biorheological Science and Technology of Ministry of Education, State and Local Joint Engineering Laboratory for Vascular Implants, Bioengineering College of Chongqing University, Chongqing, 400030, China.
2. Chongqing Key Laboratory of Nano/Micro Composite Material and Device, School of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, Chongqing University of Science and Technology, Chongqing, 401331, China.
3. Division of Biomedical Engineering, University of Glasgow, UK.
4. Istituto per le Applicazioni del Calcolo - CNR, Via dei Taurini 19, 00185, Roma, Italy.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Wang Y, Zhang K, Li T, Maruf A, Qin X, Luo L, Zhong Y, Qiu J, McGinty S, Pontrelli G, Liao X, Wu W, Wang G. Macrophage membrane functionalized biomimetic nanoparticles for targeted anti-atherosclerosis applications. Theranostics 2021; 11(1):164-180. doi:10.7150/thno.47841. Available from

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Atherosclerosis (AS), the underlying cause of most cardiovascular events, is one of the most common causes of human morbidity and mortality worldwide due to the lack of an efficient strategy for targeted therapy. In this work, we aimed to develop an ideal biomimetic nanoparticle for targeted AS therapy.

Methods: Based on macrophage “homing” into atherosclerotic lesions and cell membrane coating nanotechnology, biomimetic nanoparticles (MM/RAPNPs) were fabricated with a macrophage membrane (MM) coating on the surface of rapamycin-loaded poly (lactic-co-glycolic acid) copolymer (PLGA) nanoparticles (RAPNPs). Subsequently, the physical properties of the MM/RAPNPs were characterized. The biocompatibility and biological functions of MM/RAPNPs were determined in vitro. Finally, in AS mouse models, the targeting characteristics, therapeutic efficacy and safety of the MM/RAPNPs were examined.

Results: The advanced MM/RAPNPs demonstrated good biocompatibility. Due to the MM coating, the nanoparticles effectively inhibited the phagocytosis by macrophages and targeted activated endothelial cells in vitro. In addition, MM-coated nanoparticles effectively targeted and accumulated in atherosclerotic lesions in vivo. After a 4-week treatment program, MM/RAPNPs were shown to significantly delay the progression of AS. Furthermore, MM/RAPNPs displayed favorable safety performance after long-term administration.

Conclusion: These results demonstrate that MM/RAPNPs could efficiently and safely inhibit the progression of AS. These biomimetic nanoparticles may be potential drug delivery systems for safe and effective anti-AS applications.

Keywords: macrophage membrane, biomimetic, targeted delivery, atherosclerosis, ApoE knockout mice