Date of Award

January 2011

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)



First Advisor

Clara Abraham

Subject Area(s)

Biomedical engineering, Immunology


Retinoic acid (RA) is a small molecule capable of shunting developing T cells away from the Th17 lineage and towards the Treg phenotype, making it a potentially useful therapeutic for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. However, therapy can be complicated by systemic toxicity and unpredictable bioavailability, making a targeted drug delivery vehicle for local therapy desirable. A promising approach is the use of nanoparticles, which have been demonstrated to increase potency and decrease toxicity of therapies in a variety of disease models including Th17 mediated diseases. We therefore constructed a nanoparticulate drug delivery platform from poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) capable of encapsulating and releasing RA. Here we report the fabrication, characterization, and in vitro bioactivity of this platform. We demonstrate that RA containing PLGA nanoparticles suppress IL-17 and IFN-gamma production and ROR-gamma(t) expression in T cells polarized towards the Th17 phenotype in vitro with similar potency to that of free drug. Furthermore, we show that these particles enhance TGF-beta dependent Foxp3 expression and IL-10 production of T cells in vitro with similar potency to free RA. Finally, we demonstrate that T cells polarized towards the Th17 phenotype in the presence of free RA and nanoparticulate RA have similarly suppressed ability to induce IL-6 production by fibroblasts. Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of RA delivery via biodegradable nanoparticles and represent an exciting technology for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.