Different PEG-PLGA Matrices Influence In Vivo Optical/Photoacoustic Imaging Performance and Biodistribution of NIR-Emitting π-Conjugated Polymer Contrast Agents

Paul Robert Neumann, Frank Erdmann, Joost Holthof, Gabriela Hädrich, Mark Green, Jianghong Rao, Lea Ann Dailey
Advanced Healthcare Materials2020
The π-conjugated polymer poly[2,6-(4,4-bis-(2-ethylhexyl)-4H-cyclopenta[2,1-b;3,4-b0]-dithiophene)-alt-4,7-(2,1,3-benzothiadiazole)] (PCPDTBT) with deep-red/near-infrared (NIR) absorption and emission has been investigated as a contrast agent for in vivo optical and photoacoustic imaging. PCPDTBT is encapsulated within poly(ethylene glycol) methyl ether-block-poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PEG2kDa–PLGA4kDa or PEG5kDa–PLGA55kDa) micelles or enveloped by the phospholipid, 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine-N-[methoxy(polyethylene glycol)-2000] (PEG2kDa-DPPE), to investigate the formulation effect on imaging performance, biodistribution, and biocompatibility. Nanoparticles that meet the quality requirements for parenteral administration are generated with similar physicochemical properties. Optical phantom imaging reveals that both PEG-PLGA systems exhibit a 30% higher signal-to-background ratio (SBR) than PEG2kDa-DPPE. This trend cannot be observed in a murine HeLa xenograft model following intravenous administration since dramatic differences in biodistribution are observed. PEG2kDa–PLGA4kDa systems accumulate more rapidly in the liver compared to other formulations and PEG2kDa-DPPE demonstrates a higher tumor localization. Protein content in the “hard” corona differs between formulations (PEG2kDa-DPPE < PEG2kDa–PLGA4kDa < PEG5kDa–PLGA55kDa), although this observation alone does not explain biodistribution patterns. PEG2kDa-PLGA4kDa systems show the highest photoacoustic amplitude in a phantom, but also a lower signal in the tumor due to differences in biodistribution. This study demonstrates that formulations for conjugated polymer contrast agents can have significant impact on both imaging performance and biodistribution.

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