The relationship between the diameter of chemically-functionalized multi-walled carbon nanotubes and their organ biodistribution profiles in vivo

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) exhibit unique properties which have led to their applications in the biomedical field as novel delivery systems for diagnosis and therapy purposes. We have previously reported that the degree of functionalization of CNTs is a key factor determining their biological behaviour. The present study broadens the spectrum by investigating the impact of the diameter of CNTs using two series of multi-walled CNTs (MWNTs) with distinct differences in their diameters. Both MWNTs were doubly functionalized by 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition and amidation reactions, allowing the appended functional groups to be further conjugated with radionuclide chelating moieties and antibodies or antibody fragments. All constructs possessed comparable degree of functionalization and were characterized by thermogravimetric analysis, transmission electron microscopy, gel electrophoresis and surface plasmon resonance. The MWNT conjugates were radio-labelled with indium-111, which thereby enabled in vivo single photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT) imaging and organ biodistribution study using γ-scintigraphy. The narrow MWNTs (average diameter: 9.2 nm) demonstrated enhanced tissue affinity including non-reticular endothelial tissues compared to the wider MWNTs (average diameter: 39.5 nm). The results indicate that the higher aspect ratio of narrow MWNTs may be beneficial for their future biological applications due to higher tissue accumulation.