A significant fraction of the total immune cells in the body are located in several hundred lymph nodes, in which lymphocyte accumulation, activation and proliferation are organized. Therefore, targeting lymph nodes provides the possibility to directly deliver drugs to lymphocytes and lymph node-resident cells and thus to modify the adaptive immune response. However, owing to the structure and anatomy of lymph nodes, as well as the distinct localization and migration of the different cell types within the lymph node, it is difficult to access specific cell populations by delivering free drugs. Materials can be used as instructive delivery vehicles to achieve accumulation of drugs in the lymph nodes and to target specific lymph node-resident cell subtypes. In this Review, we describe the compartmental architecture of lymph nodes and the cell and fluid transport mechanisms to and from lymph nodes. We discuss the different entry routes into lymph nodes and how they can be explored for drug delivery, including the lymphatics, blood capillaries, high endothelial venules, cell-mediated pathways, homing of circulating lymphocytes and direct lymph node injection. We examine different nanoscale and microscale materials for the targeting of specific immune cells and highlight their potential for the treatment of immune dysfunction and for cancer immunotherapy. Finally, we give an outlook to the field, exploring how lymph node targeting can be improved by the use of materials.
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This work was supported by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant R01CA207619, a CCR15330478 grant from Susan G. Komen and US Department of Defense grant CA150523.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Schudel, A., Francis, D.M. & Thomas, S.N. Material design for lymph node drug delivery. Nat Rev Mater 4, 415–428 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41578-019-0110-7
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