Minimizing biases associated with tracking analysis of submicron particles in heterogeneous biological fluids

J Control Release. 2015 Dec 28;220(Pt A):37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2015.10.021. Epub 2015 Oct 18.


Tracking the dynamic motion of individual nanoparticles or viruses offers quantitative insights into their real-time behavior and fate in different biological environments. Indeed, particle tracking is a powerful tool that has facilitated the development of drug carriers with enhanced penetration of mucus, brain tissues and other extracellular matrices. Nevertheless, heterogeneity is a hallmark of nanoparticle diffusion in such complex environments: identical particles can exhibit strongly hindered or unobstructed diffusion within microns of each other. The common practice in 2D particle tracking, namely analyzing all trackable particle traces with equal weighting, naturally biases towards rapidly diffusing sub-populations at shorter time scales. This in turn results in misrepresentation of particle behavior and a systematic underestimate of the time necessary for a population of nanoparticles to diffuse specific distances. We show here via both computational simulation and experimental data that this bias can be rigorously corrected by weighing the contribution by each particle trace on a 'frame-by-frame' basis. We believe this methodology presents an important step towards objective and accurate assessment of the heterogeneous transport behavior of submicron drug carriers and pathogens in biological environments.

Keywords: Diffusion; Mucus; Multiple particle tracking; Single particle tracking; Transport.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Biological Transport
  • Body Fluids / metabolism*
  • Drug Carriers*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mucus / metabolism
  • Nanoparticles*


  • Drug Carriers