Effect of particle size on the biodistribution of nano- and microparticles following intra-articular injection in mice

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Graphical abstract

Intra-articular injection of drug delivery systems: retention in the joint cavity or elimination through blood and lymphatic pathways depending on the size of the particles and the inflammatory status of the joint.

Intra-articular (IA) injection of extended drug release forms based on biodegradable microparticles holds promise for the treatment of joint diseases. However, the fate of microparticles following intra-articular injection is controversial and has not been thoroughly investigated. The aim of this work was therefore to evaluate the biodistribution of fluorescent poly(lactic acid) particles of different sizes after IA injection in arthritic or healthy mice.

Regardless of the inflammatory status of the joint, 300 nm-nanoparticles leaked from the joint. Due to inflammation and related increase of vascular permeability, 3 μm-microparticles that were retained in the non-inflamed synovial membrane leaked from the inflamed joint. Complete retention of 10 μm-microparticles was observed independently of the joint inflammatory status. Embedding particles in a hyaluronic acid gel prolonged the retention of the formulations only in inflamed joints. Depending on particle's size, formulations were preferentially eliminated by blood vessels or lymphatic pathways. Poly(lactic acid) particles of 3 μm were biocompatible and retained in knee joints at least for 6 weeks.

This work highlights the need to deliver hyaluronic acid-embedded particles of at least 3 μm to guarantee their retention in inflamed joints. These results will contribute to the rational design of long-lasting formulations to treat acute and chronic joint diseases.

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