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Mol Pharm. 2012 Aug 6;9(8):2146-55. doi: 10.1021/mp200626j. Epub 2012 Jul 23.

Blood-nanoparticle interactions and in vivo biodistribution: impact of surface PEG and ligand properties.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, ‡Department of Medicine, §Department of Lab Medicine and Pathology, ∥Department of Medicinal Chemistry, ⊥Department of Mechanical Engineering, and #Department of Urologic Surgery, University of Minnesota , Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, United States.


Theranostic nanoparticles (NPs) cannot reach their target tissue without first passing through blood; however, the influence of blood protein and blood cell interactions on NP biodistribution are not well understood. The current work shows that 30 nm PEGylated gold NPs (GNPs) interact not only with blood proteins as thought before but also with blood cells (especially platelets and monocytes) in vivo and that longer blood circulation correlates strongly with tumor uptake. Further, GNP surface properties such as negative charge or lyophilization had either a minimal (i.e., charge) or 15-fold increase (i.e., fresh vs lyophilized) in blood retention times and tumor uptake. Tumor accumulation was increased over 10-fold by use of a bioactive ligand (i.e., TNF) on the lyophilized GNP surface. Resident macrophages were primarily responsible for the bulk of GNP uptake in liver while spleen uptake was highly surface property dependent and appears to involve macrophages and cellular interaction between the red and white pulp. This study shows that the PEG layer and ligand on the surface of the NP are critical to blood interactions and eventual tumor and RES organ biodistribution in vivo.

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