Radical ring-opening polymerization (rROP) of cyclic ketene acetals (CKAs) with traditional vinyl monomers allows the synthesis of degradable vinyl copolymers. However, since the most commonly used CKAs are hydrophobic, most degradable vinyl copolymers reported so far degrade very slowly by hydrolysis under physiological conditions (phosphate buffer saline, pH 7.4, 37°C) which could be detrimental for biomedical applications. Herein, to design advanced vinyl copolymers by rROP with high CKA content and enhanced degradation profiles, we reported the copolymerization of 2-methylene-1,3,6-trioxocane (MTC) as a CKA with vinyl ether (VE) or maleimide (MI) derivatives. By performing a point-by-point comparison between the MTC/VE and MTC/MI copolymerization systems, and their counterparts based on 2-methylene-1,3-dioxepane (MDO) and 5,6-benzo-2-methylene-1,3-dioxepane (BMDO), we showed negligible impact on the macromolecular characteristics and similar reactivity ratios, suggesting successful substitution of MDO and BMDO by MTC. Interestingly, owing to the hydrophilicity of MTC, the obtained copolymers exhibited a faster hydrolytic degradation under both accelerated and physiological conditions. We then prepared MTC-based glycopolymers which were formulated into surfactant-free nanoparticles, exhibiting excellent colloidal stability up to 4 months and complete degradation under enzymatic conditions. Importantly, MTC-based glyconanoparticles also showed a similar cytocompatibility toward two healthy cell lines and a much stronger lectin affinity than MDO-based glyconanoparticles.
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