The role of tissue architecture in mediating nanoparticle transport, targeting, and biological effects is unknown due to the lack of tools for imaging nanomaterials in whole organs. Here, we developed a rapid optical mapping technique to image nanomaterials in intact organs ex vivo and in three-dimensions (3D). We engineered a high-throughput electrophoretic flow device to simultaneously transform up to 48 tissues into optically transparent structures, allowing subcellular imaging of nanomaterials more than 1 mm deep into tissues which is 25-fold greater than current techniques. A key finding is that nanomaterials can be retained in the processed tissue by chemical cross-linking of surface adsorbed serum proteins to the tissue matrix, which enables nanomaterials to be imaged with respect to cells, blood vessels, and other structures. We developed a computational algorithm to analyze and quantitatively map nanomaterial distribution. This method can be universally applied to visualize the distribution and interactions of materials in whole tissues and animals including such applications as the imaging of nanomaterials, tissue engineered constructs, and biosensors within their intact biological environment.
Keywords: 3D imaging; CLARITY; microscopy; nanoparticle biological interactions; nanoparticles; nanosystems; nanotoxicology; nano−bio interface; optical clearing; protein corona; whole organ distribution.