Organ distribution and bone tropism of cellulose nanocrystals in living mice

Laura Colombo, Luca Zoia, Martina B. Violatto, Sara Previdi, Laura Talamini, Leopoldo Sitia, Francesco Nicotra, Marco Orlandi, Mario Salmona, Camilla Recordati, Paolo Bigini, Barbara La Ferla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Their physicochemical properties and relatively low cost make cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) a potential candidate for future large-scale production in many fields including nanomedicine. Prior to a sustained and responsible development as theranostic agents, robust and reliable data concerning their safety, biocompatibility, and tissue distribution should be provided. In the present study, CNCs were extracted from Whatman filters functionalized with a fluorescent dye, and their interaction with living organisms has been thoroughly assessed. Our experimental evidence demonstrated that CNCs (1) are well tolerated by healthy mice after systemic injection; (2) are rapidly excreted, thus avoiding bioaccumulation in filter organs such as the kidneys and liver; (3) transiently migrate in bones; and (4) are able to penetrate in the cytoplasm of cancer cells without inducing material-related detrimental effects in terms of cell survival. Our results strongly suggest that the peculiar tropism to the bones is due to the chemical interaction between the Ca2+ of the bone matrix and the active surface of negatively-charged CNCs. This feature, together with the ability to penetrate cancer cells, makes CNCs a potential nanodevice for theranostics in bone tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2862-2871
Number of pages10
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 14 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Biomaterials

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