Transfer of PAMAM dendrimers across human placenta: Prospects of its use as drug carrier during pregnancy

Anupa R. Menjoge, Amber L. Rinderknecht, Raghavendra S. Navath, Masoud Faridnia, Chong J. Kim, Roberto Romero, Richard K. Miller, Rangaramanujam M. Kannan

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82 Scopus citations


Dendrimers offer significant potential as nanocarriers for targeted delivery of drugs and imaging agents. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the transplacental transport, kinetics and biodistribution of PAMAM dendrimers ex-vivo across the human placenta in comparison with antipyrine, a freely diffusible molecule, using dually perfused re-circulating term human placental lobules. The purpose of this study is to determine if dendrimers as drug carriers can be used to design drug delivery systems directed at selectively treating either the mother or the fetus. The transplacental transfers of fluorescently (Alexa 488) tagged PAMAM dendrimer (16 kDa) and antipyrine (188 Da) from maternal to fetal circulation were measured using HPLC/dual UV and fluorescent detector (sensitivity of 10 ng/mL for dendrimer and 100 ng/mL for antipyrine respectively). Cmax for the dendrimer-Alexa (DA) in maternal perfusate (Tmax = 15 min) was 18 times higher than in the fetal perfusate and never equilibrated with the maternal perfusate during 5.5 h of perfusion (n = 4). DA exhibited a measurable but low transplacental transport of 2.26 ± 0.12 μg/mL during 5.5 h, where the mean transplacental transfer was 0.84 ± 0.11% of the total maternal concentration and the feto-maternal ratio as percent was 0.073% ± 0.02. The biochemical and physiological analysis of the placentae perfused with DA demonstrated normal function throughout the perfusion. The immunofluorescence histochemistry confirmed that the biodistribution of DA in perfused placenta was sparsely dispersed, and when noted was principally seen in the inter-villous spaces and outer rim of the villous branches. In a few cases, DA was found internalized and localized in nuclei and cytoplasm of syncytiotrophoblast and inside the villous core; however, DA was mostly absent from the villous capillaries. In conclusion, the PAMAM dendrimers exhibited a low rate of transfer from maternal to the fetal side across the perfused human placenta, which is similar to other investigations of large macromolecules, e.g., IgG. These overall findings suggest that entry of drugs conjugated to polymers, i.e., dendrimers, would be limited in their transfer across the human placenta when compared to smaller drug molecules alone, suggesting novel methods for selectively delivering therapeutics to the pregnant woman without significant transfer to the fetus, especially since the half life of the dendrimer in blood is relatively short.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)326-338
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 30 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodistribution
  • Drug delivery
  • Endocytosis
  • Human placenta
  • Paracellular
  • Pharmacokinetic
  • Transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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