Systematic comparison of methods for determining the in vivo biodistribution of porous nanostructured injectable inorganic particles

Sara Nizzero, Feng Li, Guodong Zhang, Alessandro Venuta, Carlotta Borsoi, Junhua Mai, Haifa Shen, Joy Wolfram, Zheng Li, Elvin Blanco, Mauro Ferrari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


With a wide variety of biodistribution measurement techniques reported in the literature, it is important to perform side-by-side comparisons of results obtained with different methods on the same particle platform, to determine differences across methods, highlight advantages and disadvantages, and inform methods selection according to specific applications. Inorganic nanostructured particles (INPs) have gained a central role in the development of injectable delivery vectors thanks to their controllable design, biocompatibility, and favorable degradation kinetic. Thus, accurate determination of in vivo biodistribution of INPs is a key aspect of developing and optimizing this class of delivery vectors. In this study, a systematic comparison of spectroscopy (inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy), fluorescence (in vivo imaging system, confocal microscopy, and plate reader), and radiolabeling (gamma counter)-based techniques is performed to assess the accuracy and sensitivity of biodistribution measurements in mice. Each method is evaluated on porous silicon particles, an established and versatile injectable delivery platform. Biodistribution is evaluated in all major organs and compared in terms of absolute results (%ID/g and %ID/organ when possible) and sensitivity (σ%). Finally, we discuss how these results can be extended to inform method selection for other platforms and specific applications, with an outlook to potential benefit for pre-clinical and clinical studies. Overall, this study presents a new practical guide for selection of in vivo biodistribution methods that yield quantitative results. Statement of Significance: The significance of this work lies in the use of a single platform to test performances of different biodistribution methods in vivo, with a strict quantitative metric. These results, united with the qualitative comparison of advantages and disadvantages of each technique, are aimed at supporting the rational choice of each different method according to the specific application, to improve the quantitative description of biodistribution results that will be published by others in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-512
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Biodistribution
  • Fluorescence labeling
  • Imaging
  • Injectable particles
  • Radiolabeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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