Targeting and Modulation of Liver Myeloid Immune Cells by Hard-Shell Microbubbles

Adv Biosyst. 2018 May;2(5):1800002. doi: 10.1002/adbi.201800002.


Poly n-butylcyanoacrylate (PBCA)-based hard-shell microbubbles (MB) have manifold biomedical applications, including targeted drug delivery or contrast agents for ultrasound (US)-based liver imaging. MB and their fragments accumulate in phagocytes, especially in the liver, but it is unclear if MB affect the function of these immune cells. We herein show that human primary monocytes internalize different PBCA-MB by phagocytosis, which transiently inhibits monocyte migration in vertical chemotaxis assays and renders monocytes susceptible to cytotoxic effects of MB during US-guided destruction. Conversely, human macrophage viability and function, including cytokine release and polarization, remain unaffected after MB uptake. After i.v. injection in mice, MB predominantly accumulate in liver, especially in hepatic phagocytes (monocytes and Kupffer cells). Despite efficiently targeting myeloid immune cells in liver, MB or MB after US-elicited burst do not cause overt hepatotoxicity or inflammation. Furthermore, MB application with or without US-guided burst does not aggravate the course of experimental liver injury in mice or the inflammatory response to liver injury in vivo. In conclusion, PBCA-MB have immunomodulatory effects on primary human myeloid cells in vitro, but do not provoke hepatotoxicity, inflammation or altered response to liver injury in vivo, suggesting the safety of these MB for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Keywords: cell migration; inflammation; liver; macrophages; microbubbles; ultrasound.