Arkansas Nanomedicine Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in collaboration with other Arkansas Universities and the FDA-based National Center of Toxicological Research in Jefferson, AR is developing novel techniques for rapid quantification of graphene-based nanomaterials (GBNs) in various biological samples. All-carbon GBNs have wide range of potential applications in industry, agriculture, food processing and medicine; however, quantification of GBNs is difficult in carbon reach biological tissues. The accurate quantification of GBNs is essential for research on material toxicity and the development of GBNs-based drug delivery platforms. We have developed microscopy and cytometry platforms for detection and quantification of GBNs in single cells, tissue and blood samples using photoacoustic contrast of GBNs. We demonstrated PA quantification of individual graphene uptake by single cells. High-resolution PA microscopy provided mapping of GBN distribution within live cells to establish correlation with intracellular toxic phenomena using apoptotic and necrotic assays. This new methodology and corresponding technical platform provide the insight on possible toxicological risks of GBNs at singe cells levels. In addition, in vivo PA image flow cytometry demonstrated the capability to monitor of GBNs pharmacokinetics in mouse model and to map the resulting biodistribution of GBNs in mouse tissues. The integrated PA platform provided an unprecedented sensitivity toward GBNs and allowed to enhance conventional toxicology research by providing a direct correlation between uptake of GBNs at a single cell level and cell viability status.
Approximately 8 million people lose their lives due to cancer each year. Metastatic disease is responsible for ~90% of those cancer-related deaths. Only viable circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that can survive in the blood circulation can create secondary tumors. Thus, real-time enumeration of CTCs and assessment of their viability in vivo has great biological significance. However, little progress has been made in this field. Conventional flow cytometry is the current technique being used for the assessment of cell viability, but there are many limitations to this technique: 1) cell properties may be altered during the extraction and processing method; 2) collection of cells from blood prevents the long-term study of individual cells in their natural biological environment; and 3) there are time-consuming preparation procedures. Whether it be for the assessment of antitumor drugs, where induction of apoptosis or necrosis is the preferred event, or the identification of nanoparticle-induced toxicity during nanotherapeutic treatment, it is clear that new approaches for assessment of the viability circulating blood cells and CTCs are urgently needed. We have developed a novel high speed, multicolor in vivo flow cytometry (FC) platform that integrates photoacoustic (PA) and fluorescence FC (PAFFC) and demonstrate its ability to enumerate rare circulating normal and abnormal (e.g. tumor) cells and assess their viability (e.g. apoptotic and necrotic) in a mouse model.