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Microfluidic technologies for accelerating the clinical translation of nanoparticles

Abstract

Using nanoparticles for therapy and imaging holds tremendous promise for the treatment of major diseases such as cancer. However, their translation into the clinic has been slow because it remains difficult to produce nanoparticles that are consistent 'batch-to-batch', and in sufficient quantities for clinical research. Moreover, platforms for rapid screening of nanoparticles are still lacking. Recent microfluidic technologies can tackle some of these issues, and offer a way to accelerate the clinical translation of nanoparticles. In this Progress Article, we highlight the advances in microfluidic systems that can synthesize libraries of nanoparticles in a well-controlled, reproducible and high-throughput manner. We also discuss the use of microfluidics for rapidly evaluating nanoparticles in vitro under microenvironments that mimic the in vivo conditions. Furthermore, we highlight some systems that can manipulate small organisms, which could be used for evaluating the in vivo toxicity of nanoparticles or for drug screening. We conclude with a critical assessment of the near- and long-term impact of microfluidics in the field of nanomedicine.

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Figure 1: Nanoparticles in clinical development, steps for their translation (with average timescales) and microfluidic methods (green boxes) that could improve or complement current technologies.
Figure 2: Microfluidic synthesis of nanoparticles.
Figure 3: Microfluidic systems for in vitro evaluation and screening of nanoparticles.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Koch-Prostate Cancer Foundation Award in Nanotherapeutics (R.L. and O.C.F.), the National Cancer Institute Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence at MIT-Harvard (U54-CA151884, R.L. and O.C.F.), and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Programs of Excellence in Nanotechnology (HHSN268201000045C; R.L. and O.C.F.). P.M.V. is supported by the National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship. We thank B. Timko and F. Karim for assistance in drafting Figs 1 and 2, respectively. We also thank A. Radovic-Moreno, C. Alabi and E. Pridgen for their insightful comments.

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Correspondence to Omid C. Farokhzad, Rohit Karnik or Robert Langer.

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The authors declare competing financial interests: O.C.F. and R.L. disclose financial interest in BIND Biosciences and Selecta Biosciences, two biotechnology companies developing nanoparticle technologies for medical applications. BIND and Selecta did not support the aforementioned work, and at present these companies have no rights to any technology or intellectual property developed as part of this work.

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Valencia, P., Farokhzad, O., Karnik, R. et al. Microfluidic technologies for accelerating the clinical translation of nanoparticles. Nature Nanotech 7, 623–629 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2012.168

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