Stealth liposomes and long circulating nanoparticles: critical issues in pharmacokinetics, opsonization and protein-binding properties

Prog Lipid Res. 2003 Nov;42(6):463-78. doi: 10.1016/s0163-7827(03)00033-x.


This article critically examines and evaluates the likely mechanisms that contribute to prolonged circulation times of sterically protected nanoparticles and liposomes. It is generally assumed that the macrophage-resistant property of sterically protected particles is due to suppression in surface opsonization and protein adsorption. However, recent evidence shows that sterically stabilized particles are prone to opsonization particularly by the opsonic components of the complement system. We have evaluated these phenomena and discussed theories that reconcile complement activation and opsonization with prolonged circulation times. With respect to particle longevity, the physiological state of macrophages also plays a critical role. For example, stimulated or newly recruited macrophages can recognize and rapidly internalize sterically protected nanoparticles by opsonic-independent mechanisms. These concepts are also examined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Complement Activation
  • Humans
  • Liposomes*
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Nanotubes*
  • Phagocytosis
  • Pharmacokinetics*


  • Liposomes