Nano Research

Article Title

Nanoscale chemical imaging of individual chemotherapeutic cytarabine-loaded liposomal nanocarriers


tapping PTIR, nanoscale chemical imaging, liposomes, cytarabine, drug delivery, nanocarriers


Dosage of chemotherapeutic drugs is a tradeoff between efficacy and side-effects. Liposomes are nanocarriers that increase therapy efficacy and minimize side-effects by delivering otherwise difficult to administer therapeutics with improved efficiency and selectivity. Still, variabilities in liposome preparation require assessing drug encapsulation efficiency at the single liposome level, an information that, for non-fluorescent therapeutic cargos, is inaccessible due to the minute drug load per liposome. Photothermal induced resonance (PTIR) provides nanoscale compositional specificity, up to now, by leveraging an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip contacting the sample to transduce the sample’s photothermal expansion. However, on soft samples (e.g., liposomes) PTIR effectiveness is reduced due to the likelihood of tip-induced sample damage and inefficient AFM transduction. Here, individual liposomes loaded with the chemotherapeutic drug cytarabine are deposited intact from suspension via nano-electrospray gas-phase electrophoretic mobility molecular analysis (nES-GEMMA) collection and characterized at the nanoscale with the chemically-sensitive PTIR method. A new tapping-mode PTIR imaging paradigm based on heterodyne detection is shown to be better adapted to measure soft samples, yielding cytarabine distribution in individual liposomes and enabling classification of empty and drug-loaded liposomes. The measurements highlight PTIR capability to detect ~ 10³ cytarabine molecules (~ 1.7 zmol) label-free and non-destructively.

Graphical Abstract


Tsinghua University Press