Prion accumulation in the brain and lymphoreticular system causes fatal neurodegenerative diseases. Our previous study revealed that cellulose ethers (CE) have anti-prion activities in vivo and in prion-infected cells when administered at high doses. This study aims to improve the bioavailability of a representative CE using a liposomal formulation and characterized CE-loaded liposomes in cultured cells. The liposomal formulation reduced the EC50 dose of CE by <1/200-fold in prion-infected cells. Compared to empty liposomes, CE-loaded liposomes were taken up much more highly by prion-infected cells and less by macrophage-like cells. Phosphatidylserine modification reduced the uptake of CE-loaded liposomes in prion-infected cells and did not change the anti-prion activity, whereas increased the uptake in macrophage-like cells. Polyethylene glycol modification reduced the uptake of CE-loaded liposomes in both types of cells and reduced the anti-prion activity in prion-infected cells. These results suggest that a liposomal formulation of CE is more practical than unformulated CE and showed that the CE-loaded liposome uptake levels in prion-infected cells were not associated with anti-prion activity. Although further improvement of the stealth function against phagocytic cells is needed, the liposomal formulation is useful to improve CE efficacy and elucidate the mechanism of CE action.
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