Impact of hydrogel nanoparticle size and functionalization on in vivo behavior for lung imaging and therapeutics

Yongjian Liu, Aida Ibricevic, Joel A. Cohen, Jessica L. Cohen, Sean P. Gunsten, Jean M.J. Fréchet, Michael J. Walter, Michael J. Welch, Steven L. Brody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Polymer chemistry offers the possibility of synthesizing multifunctional nanoparticles which incorporate moieties that enhance diagnostic and therapeutic targeting of cargo delivery to the lung. However, since rules for predicting particle behavior following modification are not well-defined, it is essential that probes for tracking fate in vivo are also included. Accordingly, we designed polyacrylamide-based hydrogel particles of differing sizes, functionalized with a nona-arginine cellpenetrating peptide (Arg9), and labeled with imaging components to assess lung retention and cellular uptake after intratracheal administration. Radiolabeled microparticles (1-5 μm diameter) and nanoparticles (20-40 nm diameter) without and with Arg9 showed diffuse airspace distribution by positron emission tomography imaging. Biodistribution studies revealed that particle clearance and extrapulmonary distribution was, in part, size dependent. Microparticles were rapidly cleared by mucociliary routes but, unexpectedly, also through the circulation. In contrast, nanoparticles had prolonged lung retention enhanced by Arg9 and were significantly restricted to the lung. For all particle types, uptake was predominant in alveolar macrophages and, to a lesser extent, lung epithelial cells. In general, particles did not induce local inflammatory responses, with the exception of microparticles bearing Arg9. Whereas microparticles may be advantageous for short-term applications, nanosized particles constitute an efficient high-retention and non-inflammatory vehicle for the delivery of diagnostic imaging agents and therapeutics to lung airspaces and alveolar macrophages that can be enhanced by Arg9. Importantly, our results show that minor particle modifications may significantly impact in vivo behavior within the complex environments of the lung, underscoring the need for animal modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1891-1902
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 7 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell penetrating peptide
  • Lung
  • Macrophage
  • Mice
  • Microparticle
  • Nanoparticle
  • Polyacrylamide
  • Polyarginine
  • Positron emission tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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