Multiparametric investigation of non functionalized-AGuIX nanoparticles in 3D human airway epithelium models demonstrates preferential targeting of tumor cells

J Nanobiotechnology. 2020 Sep 10;18(1):129. doi: 10.1186/s12951-020-00683-6.


Liquid deposit mimicking surface aerosolization in the airway is a promising strategy for targeting bronchopulmonary tumors with reduced doses of nanoparticle (NPs). In mimicking and studying such delivery approaches, the use of human in vitro 3D culture models can bridge the gap between 2D cell culture and small animal investigations. Here, we exposed airway epithelia to liquid-apical gadolinium-based AGuIX® NPs in order to determine their safety profile. We used a multiparametric methodology to investigate the NP's distribution over time in both healthy and tumor-bearing 3D models. AGuIX® NPs were able to target tumor cells in the absence of specific surface functionalization, without evidence of toxicity. Finally, we validated the therapeutic potential of this hybrid theranostic AGuIX® NPs upon radiation exposure in this model. In conclusion, 3D cell cultures can efficiently mimic the normal and tumor-bearing airway epitheliums, providing an ethical and accessible model for the investigation of nebulized NPs.

Keywords: 3D human healthy and tumor airway models; AGuIX® nanoparticles; Nanoparticle’s toxicity; Nanoparticle’s uptake; Tumor targeting.

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells / pathology
  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods
  • Epithelium / drug effects*
  • Gadolinium / chemistry
  • Gadolinium / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Nanoparticles / therapeutic use*
  • Respiratory System / drug effects*


  • AGuIX
  • Gadolinium