Kraft JC, Treuting PM, Ho RJY. Indocyanine green nanoparticles undergo selective lymphatic uptake, distribution and retention and enable detailed mapping of lymph vessels, nodes and abnormalities. J Drug Target. 2018 Jun-Jul;26(5-6):494-504. doi: 10.1080/1061186X.2018.1433681. Epub 2018 Feb 12. PMID: 29388438 PMCID: PMC6205717
The distributed network of lymph vessels and nodes in the body, with its complex architecture and physiology, presents a major challenge for whole-body lymphatic-targeted drug delivery. To gather physiological and pathological information of the lymphatics, near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence imaging of NIR fluorophores is used in clinical practice due to its tissue-penetrating optical radiation (700-900 nm) that safely provides real-time high-resolution in vivo images. However, indocyanine green (ICG), a common clinical NIR fluorophore, is unstable in aqueous environments and under light exposure, and its poor lymphatic distribution and retention limits its use as a NIR lymphatic tracer. To address this, we investigated in mice the distribution pathways of a novel nanoparticle formulation that stabilises ICG and is optimised for lymphatic drug delivery. From the subcutaneous space, ICG particles provided selective lymphatic uptake, lymph vessel and node retention, and extensive first-pass lymphatic distribution of ICG, enabling 0.2 mm and 5-10 cell resolution of lymph vessels, and high signal-to-background ratios for lymphatic vessel and node networks. Soluble (free) ICG readily dissipated from lymph vessels local to the injection site and absorbed into the blood. These unique characteristics of ICG particles could enable mechanistic studies of the lymphatics and diagnosis of lymphatic abnormalities.