Preliminary biological evaluation of polyamidoamine (PAMAM) Starburst dendrimers

J Biomed Mater Res. 1996 Jan;30(1):53-65. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4636(199601)30:1<53::AID-JBM8>3.0.CO;2-Q.


PAMAM Starburst dendrimers are spherical macromolecules composed of repeating polyamidoamino units. They can be produced in successive "generations," each with a defined size, molecular weight, and number of terminal amino groups. Because of these well-defined characteristics, PAMAMs are finding utility in a variety of applications, many of which are biological in nature. Little is known, however, about the biological behavior of the PAMAMs, which is critical to their use in vivo. Generation 3 (G3; MW = 5,147; 24 terminal amines), 5 (G5; MW = 21,563; 96 amines), and 7 (G7; MW = 87,227; 384 amines) PAMAMs were studied in V79 cells or in Swiss-Webster, mice for a number of biological properties, including (1) in vitro toxicity, (2) in vivo toxicity, (3) immunogenicity, and (4) biodistribution. Potential biological complications were observed only with G7 at the highest level tested. No evidence of immunogenicity was seen. The biodistribution properties of the Starburst dendrimers were rather unusual. G3 showed the highest accumulation in kidney tissue (approximately 15% ID/g over 48 h); G5 and G7 appeared to preferentially localize in the pancreas (peak levels approximately 32% ID/g at 24 h, and approximately 20% ID/g at 2 h, respectively). In addition, G7 showed extremely high urinary excretion, with values of 46 and 74% ID/g at 2 and 4 h, respectively. In general, the dendrimers did not exhibit properties that would preclude their use in biological applications. Depending on the situation (desired endpoint, dose, and generation used), however, the biodistribution of biological preparations should be carefully studied.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / pharmacokinetics
  • Biocompatible Materials / toxicity*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Dendrimers
  • Male
  • Materials Testing*
  • Mice
  • Polyamines / pharmacokinetics
  • Polyamines / toxicity*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Dendrimers
  • PAMAM Starburst
  • Polyamines