Transport and biodistribution of dendrimers across human fetal membranes: Implications for intravaginal administration of dendrimer-drug conjugates

Anupa R. Menjoge, Raghavendra S. Navath, Abbas Asad, Sujatha Kannan, Chong J. Kim, Roberto Romero, Rangaramanujam M. Kannan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Dendrimers are emerging as promising topical antimicrobial agents, and as targeted nanoscale drug delivery vehicles. Topical intravaginal antimicrobial agents are prescribed to treat the ascending genital infections in pregnant women. The fetal membranes separate the extra-amniotic space and fetus. The purpose of the study is to determine if the dendrimers can be selectively used for local intravaginal application to pregnant women without crossing the membranes into the fetus. In the present study, the transport and permeability of PAMAM (poly (amidoamine)) dendrimers, across human fetal membrane (using a side by side diffusion chamber), and its biodistribution (using immunofluorescence) are evaluated ex-vivo. Transport across human fetal membranes (from the maternal side) was evaluated using Fluorescein (FITC), an established transplacental marker (positive control, size ∼400 Da) and fluorophore-tagged G4-PAMAM dendrimers (∼16 kDa). The fluorophore-tagged G4-PAMAM dendrimers were synthesized and characterized using 1H NMR, MALDI TOF MS and HPLC analysis. Transfer was measured across the intact fetal membrane (chorioamnion), and the separated chorion and amnion layers. Over a 5 h period, the dendrimer transport across all the three membranes was less than <3%, whereas the transport of FITC was relatively fast with as much as 49% transport across the amnion. The permeability of FITC (7.9 × 10-7 cm2/s) through the chorioamnion was 7-fold higher than that of the dendrimer (5.8 × 10-8 cm2/s). The biodistribution showed that the dendrimers were largely present in interstitial spaces in the decidual stromal cells and the chorionic trophoblast cells (in 2.5-4 h) and surprisingly, to a smaller extent internalized in nuclei of trophoblast cells and nuclei and cytoplasm of stromal cells. Passive diffusion and paracellular transport appear to be the major route for dendrimer transport. The overall findings further suggest that entry of drugs conjugated to dendrimers would be restricted across the human fetal membranes when administered topically by intravaginal route, suggesting new ways of selectively delivering therapeutics to the mother without affecting the fetus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5007-5021
Number of pages15
Issue number18
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodistribution
  • Chorioamnion
  • Dendrimers
  • Membrane permeability
  • Nanotoxicology
  • Topical intravaginal
  • Transplacental transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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