Radiopaque alginate microcapsules for X-ray visualization and immunoprotection of cellular therapeutics

Mol Pharm. 2006 Sep-Oct;3(5):531-8. doi: 10.1021/mp060056l.


Alginate-poly-L-lysine-alginate (APA) microcapsules have been explored as vehicles for therapeutic drug and cell delivery. The permselectivity of these capsules provides a unique means of controlled drug release and immunoisolation of encapsulated cells. Immunoisolation is especially attractive as it abrogates the need for chronic immunosuppressive therapy and opens up the possibility for the delivery of numerous cell sources including xenogeneic grafts. APA microcapsules containing cellular therapeutics have proven effective in the short-term treatment of a wide range of diseases requiring enzyme or endocrine replacement therapy, including type I diabetes. If these microcapsules could be noninvasively monitored with X-ray imaging modalities (i.e., fluoroscopy, CT, and digital subtraction angiography), questions such as the ideal transplantation site, the best means of delivery, and the long-term survival of grafts could be better addressed. We have developed two novel alginate-based radiopaque microcapsule formulations containing either barium sulfate (Ba X-Caps) or bismuth sulfate (Bi X-Caps). As compared to conventional, nonradiopaque APA capsules, Ba X-Caps and Bi X-Caps containing human cadaveric islets resulted in a decrease in cellular viability of less than 5% up to 14 days after encapsulation. Both radiopaque capsules were found to be permeable to lectins < or =75 kDa, but were impermeable to lectins > or =120 kDa, thus ensuring the blockage of the penetration of antibodies while allowing free diffusion of insulin and nutrients. The glucose-responsive insulin secretion of the radiopaque encapsulated human islets was found to be unaltered compared to that of unlabeled controls, with human C-peptide levels ranging from 3.21 to 2.87 (Ba X-Caps) and 3.23 to 2.87 (Bi X-Caps) ng/islet at 7 and 14 days postencapsulation, respectively. Using fluoroscopy, both Ba X-Caps and Bi X-Caps could be readily visualized as single radiopaque entities in vitro. Furthermore, following transplantation in vivo in mice and rabbits, single capsules could be identified with no significant change in contrast for at least 2 weeks. This study represents the first attempt at making radiopaque microcapsules for X-ray guided delivery and imaging of cellular therapeutics. While human cadaveric islets were used as a proof-of-principle, these radiopaque capsules may have wide ranging therapeutic applications for a variety of cell types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alginates / chemistry
  • Alginates / pharmacokinetics*
  • Alginates / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Barium Sulfate / chemistry
  • Capsules
  • Delayed-Action Preparations / chemistry
  • Delayed-Action Preparations / pharmacokinetics
  • Delayed-Action Preparations / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucuronic Acid / chemistry
  • Glucuronic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Glucuronic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Hexuronic Acids / chemistry
  • Hexuronic Acids / pharmacokinetics
  • Hexuronic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology
  • Islets of Langerhans / diagnostic imaging
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation / methods
  • Mice
  • Rabbits
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous


  • Alginates
  • Capsules
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Hexuronic Acids
  • Insulin
  • Barium Sulfate
  • Glucuronic Acid
  • Glucose