Nanoparticle heterogeneity: an emerging structural parameter influencing particle fate in biological media?
Drug nanocarriers’ surface chemistry is often presumed to be uniform. For instance, the polymer surface coverage and distribution of ligands on nanoparticles are described with averaged values obtained from quantification techniques based on particle populations. However, these averaged values may conceal heterogeneities at different levels, either because of the presence of particle sub-populations or because of surface inhomogeneities, such as patchy surfaces on individual particles. The characterization and quantification of chemical surface heterogeneities are tedious tasks, which are rather limited by the currently available instruments and research protocols. However, heterogeneities may contribute to some non-linear effects observed during the nanoformulation optimization process, cause problems related to nanocarrier production scale-up and correlate with unexpected biological outcomes. On the other hand, heterogeneities, while usually unintended and detrimental to nanocarrier performance, may, in some cases, be sought as adjustable properties that provide NPs with unique functionality. In this review, results and processes related to this issue are compiled, and perspectives and possible analytical developments are discussed.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Recent Review Articles