It has been reported that the amount of intermediate water, defined as water molecules loosely bound to a material, is a useful index of the material's bio-inert properties. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a well-known biocompatible polymer with a large amount of intermediate water. Many researchers have showed that PEGylated nanoparticles are passively accumulated in tumor tissues owing to their enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effects. Dendrimers are regularly branched polymers with highly controllable size and structure, which can be exploited as potent drug carriers. In this study, we investigated the tripartite relationship among the PEG density, the hydration state, and the passive tumor targeting property, using PEGylated dendrimers. The fully PEGylated dendrimer, PEG64-den, showed similar hydration behavior to PEG and a passive tumor targeting property. In contrast, the hydration state of the partly PEGylated dendrimer, PEG5-den, was different from that of PEG64-den, and the passive tumor targeting property was not observed. This is the first report to show the hydration state of a drug carrier as well as discuss a relationship between the hydration state and biodistribution.
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