Targeting distinct myeloid cell populations in vivo using polymers, liposomes and microbubbles

Can Ergen, Felix Heymann, Wa'el Al Rawashdeh, Felix Gremse, Matthias Bartneck, Ulf Panzer, Robert Pola, Michal Pechar, Gert Storm, Nicole Mohr, Matthias Barz, Rudolf Zentel, Fabian Kiessling, Christian Trautwein, Twan Lammers, Frank Tacke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Identifying intended or accidental cellular targets for drug delivery systems is highly relevant for evaluating therapeutic and toxic effects. However, limited knowledge exists on the distribution of nano- and micrometer-sized carrier systems at the cellular level in different organs. We hypothesized that clinically relevant carrier materials, differing in composition and size, are able to target distinct myeloid cell subsets that control inflammatory processes, such as macrophages, neutrophils, monocytes and dendritic cells. Therefore, we analyzed the biodistribution and in vivo cellular uptake of intravenously injected poly(N-(2-hydroxypropyl) methacrylamide) polymers, PEGylated liposomes and poly(butyl cyanoacrylate) microbubbles in mice, using whole-body imaging (computed tomography - fluorescence-mediated tomography), intra-organ imaging (intravital multi-photon microscopy) and cellular analysis (flow cytometry of blood, liver, spleen, lung and kidney). While the three carrier materials shared accumulation in tissue macrophages in liver and spleen, they notably differed in uptake by other myeloid subsets. Kupffer cells and splenic red pulp macrophages rapidly take up microbubbles. Liposomes efficiently reach dendritic cells in liver, lung and kidney. Polymers exhibit the longest circulation half-life and target endothelial cells in the liver, neutrophils and alveolar macrophages. The identification of such previously unrecognized target cell populations might open up new avenues for more efficient drug delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-120
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Liposomes
  • Macrophages
  • Microbubbles
  • Nanomedicine
  • Polymers
  • Targeted delivery


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