Hyaluronic acid molecular weight determines lung clearance and biodistribution after instillation

Christopher Kuehl, Ti Zhang, Lisa M. Kaminskas, Christopher J H Porter, Neal M. Davies, Laird Forrest, Cory Berkland

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Hyaluronic acid (HA) has emerged as a versatile polymer for drug delivery. Multiple commercial products utilize HA, it can be obtained in a variety of molecular weights, and it offers chemical handles for cross-linkers, drugs, or imaging agents. Previous studies have investigated multiple administration routes, but the absorption, biodistribution, and pharmacokinetics of HA after delivery to the lung is relatively unknown. Here, pharmacokinetic parameters were investigated by delivering different molecular weights of HA (between 7 and 741 kDa) to the lungs of mice. HA was labeled with either a near-infrared dye or with iodine-125 conjugated to HA using a tyrosine linker. In initial studies, dye-labeled HA was instilled into the lungs and fluorescent images of organs were collected at 1, 8, and 24 h post administration. Data suggested longer lung persistence of higher molecular weight HA, but signal diminished for all molecular weights at 8 h. To better quantitate pharmacokinetic parameters, different molecular weights of iodine-125 labeled HA were instilled and organ radioactivity was determined after 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 h. The data showed that, after instillation, the lungs contained the highest levels of HA, as expected, followed by the gastrointestinal tract. Smaller molecular weights of HA showed more rapid systemic distribution, while 67 and 215 kDa HA showed longer persistence in the lungs. Lung exposure appeared to be optimum in this size range due to the rapid absorption of 215 kDa. The versatility of HA molecular weight and conjugation chemistries may, therefore, provide new opportunities to extend pulmonary drug exposure and potentially facilitate access to lymph nodes draining the pulmonary bed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1904-1914
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2016


  • biodistribution
  • haluronic acid
  • pharmacokinetics
  • pulmonary delivery
  • pulmonary transport
  • radiolabeled

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