Polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimers are a promising class of nanocarrier with applications in both small and large molecule drug delivery. Here we report a comprehensive evaluation of the uptake and transport pathways that contribute to the lung disposition of dendrimers.
Anionic PAMAM dendrimers and control dextran probes were applied to an isolated perfused rat lung (IPRL) model and lung epithelial monolayers. Endocytosis pathways were examined in primary alveolar epithelial cultures by confocal microscopy. Molecular interactions of dendrimers with protein and lipid lung fluid components were studied using small angle neutron scattering (SANS).
Dendrimers were absorbed across the intact lung via a passive, size-dependent transport pathway at rates slower than dextrans of similar molecular sizes. SANS investigations of concentration-dependent PAMAM transport in the IPRL confirmed no aggregation of PAMAMs with either albumin or dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine lung lining fluid components. Distinct endocytic compartments were identified within primary alveolar epithelial cells and their functionality in the rapid uptake of fluorescent dendrimers and model macromolecular probes was confirmed by co-localisation studies.
PAMAM dendrimers display favourable lung biocompatibility but modest lung to blood absorption kinetics. These data support the investigation of dendrimer-based carriers for controlled-release drug delivery to the deep lung.