Label-free Raman spectral imaging of intracellular delivery and degradation of polymeric nanoparticle systems

ACS Nano. 2009 Nov 24;3(11):3552-9. doi: 10.1021/nn9010973.


Novel optical imaging methods, such as Raman microspectroscopy, have been gaining recognition in their ability to obtain noninvasively the distribution of biochemical components of a sample. Raman spectroscopy in combination with optical microscopy provides a label-free method to assess and image cellular processes, without the use of extrinsic fluorescent dyes. The submicrometer resolution of the confocal Raman instrumentation allows us to image cellular organelles on the scale of conventional microscopy. We used the technique to monitor subcellular degradation patterns of two biodegradable nanocarrier systems-poly(epsilon-caprolactone) (PCL) and poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA). Our results suggest that both drug-delivery systems eventually are incorporated into Golgi-associated vesicles of late endosomes. These processes were monitored via the decrease of the molecule-characteristic peaks of PCL and PLGA. As the catabolic pathways proceed, shifts and variations in peak intensities and intensity ratios in the rendered Raman spectra unequivocally delineate their degradation patterns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry
  • Drug Carriers / metabolism
  • Glycolates / chemistry
  • Glycolates / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Space / metabolism*
  • Lactic Acid
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Polyesters / chemistry
  • Polyesters / metabolism
  • Polyglycolic Acid
  • Polylactic Acid-Polyglycolic Acid Copolymer
  • Polymers / chemistry*
  • Polymers / metabolism*
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Time Factors


  • Drug Carriers
  • Glycolates
  • Polyesters
  • Polymers
  • Polylactic Acid-Polyglycolic Acid Copolymer
  • polycaprolactone
  • Polyglycolic Acid
  • Lactic Acid