Utilization of Near Infrared Fluorescence Imaging to Track and Quantify the Pulmonary Retention of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes in Mice.


As nanomaterials are used in a wide array of applications, investigations regarding health impacts associated with inhalation are a concern. Reports show that exposure to single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) can induce fibrosis, allergic-type reactions, and pathogen susceptibility. Airway clearance is known to play a primary role in these disease states, yet SWCNT detection in biological systems is challenging. Common techniques, such as electron microscopy, lack spatial resolution and specificity to delineate SWCNTs in carbon-based organisms. Here we validated a near-infrared fluorescence imaging (NIRFI) system to track and semi-quantify SWCNTs over 21 days in tissues of mice exposed intratracheally to 1 dose of SWCNTs. In tandem, we optimized a NIRF-based spectrometry method to quantify SWCNTs, showing that NIRFI was consistent with SWCNT burdens quantified by NIRF spectroscopy in whole lung tissue homogenates. Finally, NIRFI was utilized to localize SWCNTs on lung tissue sections used for pathological analysis. Results revealed that SWCNTs remained in the lung over 21 days and were consistent with alveolar wall restructuring and granuloma formation. This study is the first to quantify SWCNTs in mouse lungs using both semi-quantitative tracking and quantitative mass measurements using NIRF, highlighting this as a sensitive and specific technique for assessing SWCNT clearance in vivo.