Physiological characteristics of diseases bring about both challenges and opportunities for targeted drug delivery. Various drug delivery platforms have been devised ranging from macro- to micro- and further into the nanoscopic scale in the past decades. Recently, the favorable physicochemical properties of nanomaterials, including long circulation, robust tissue and cell penetration attract broad interest, leading to extensive studies for therapeutic benefits. Accumulated knowledge about the physiological barriers that affect the in vivo fate of nanomedicine has led to more rational guidelines for tailoring the nanocarriers, such as size, shape, charge, and surface ligands. Meanwhile, progresses in material chemistry and molecular pharmaceutics generate a panel of physiological stimuli-responsive modules that are equipped into the formulations to prepare “smart” drug delivery systems. The capability of harnessing physiological traits of diseased tissues to control the accumulation of or drug release from nanomedicine has further improved the controlled drug release profiles with a precise manner. Successful clinical translation of a few nano-formulations has excited the collaborative efforts from the research community, pharmaceutical industry, and the public towards a promising future of smart drug delivery.
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