Long-term toxicity of holmium-loaded poly(L-lactic acid) microspheres in rats

Biomaterials. 2007 Nov;28(31):4591-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2007.07.012. Epub 2007 Jul 25.


The aim of this study was to get insight into the toxic effects of holmium-166-loaded poly(L-lactic acid) microspheres (Ho-PLLA-MS) which have very interesting features for treatment of liver malignancies. Acute, mid- and long-term effects were studied in healthy Wistar rats by evaluating clinical, biochemical and tissue response. Rats were divided into four treatment groups: sham, decayed neutron-irradiated Ho-PLLA-MS, non-irradiated Ho-PLLA-MS and PLLA-MS. After implantation of the microspheres into the liver of the rats, the animals were monitored (body weight, temperature and liver enzymes) for a period of 14-18 months. Some of the rats that received previously neutron-irradiated Ho-PLLA-MS were periodically scanned with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see if holmium was released from the microspheres. After sacrifice, the liver tissue was histologically evaluated. Bone tissue was subjected to neutron-activation analysis in order to examine whether accumulation of released holmium in the bone had occurred. No measurable clinical and biochemical toxic effects were observed in any of the treatment groups. Furthermore, histological analyses of liver tissue samples only showed signs of a slight chronic inflammation and no significant differences in the tissue reaction between rats of the different treatment groups could be observed. The non-irradiated PLLA-MS and Ho-PLLA-MS stayed intact during the study. In contrast, 14 months after administration, the neutron-irradiated Ho-PLLA-MS was not completely spherical anymore, indicating that degradation had started. However, the holmium loading had not been released as was illustrated with MRI and affirmed by neutron-activation analysis of bone tissue. In conclusion, neutron-irradiated Ho-PLLA-MS does not provoke any toxic reaction and can be applied safely in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Body Weight / radiation effects
  • Drug Carriers / toxicity*
  • Holmium / toxicity*
  • Lactic Acid / toxicity*
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Male
  • Materials Testing
  • Microspheres
  • Polyesters
  • Polymers / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Drug Carriers
  • Polyesters
  • Polymers
  • Lactic Acid
  • poly(lactide)
  • Holmium