PET imaging of distinct brain uptake of a nanobody and similarly-sized PAMAM dendrimers after intra-arterial administration

  • Wojciech G. LesniakEmail author
  • Chengyan Chu
  • Anna Jablonska
  • Babak Behnam Azad
  • Olivier Zwaenepoel
  • Michal Zawadzki
  • Ala Lisok
  • Martin G. Pomper
  • Piotr Walczak
  • Jan Gettemans
  • Miroslaw JanowskiEmail author
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Neurology



We have recently shown that intracerebral delivery of an anti-VEGF monoclonal antibody bevacizumab using an intra-arterial (IA) infusion is more effective than intravenous administration. While antibodies are quickly emerging as therapeutics, their disadvantages such as large size, production logistics and immunogenicity motivate search for alternatives. Thus we have studied brain uptake of nanobodies and polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimers.


Nanobodies were conjugated with deferoxamine (DFO) to generate NB(DFO)2. Generation-4 PAMAM dendrimers were conjugated with DFO, and subsequently primary amines were capped with butane-1,2-diol functionalities to generate G4(DFO)3(Bdiol)110. Resulting conjugates were radiolabeled with zirconium-89. Brain uptake of 89ZrNB(DFO)2 and 89ZrG4(DFO)3(Bdiol)110 upon carotid artery vs tail vein infusions with intact BBB or osmotic blood–brain barrier opening (OBBBO) with mannitol in mice was monitored by dynamic positron emission tomography (PET) over 30 min to assess brain uptake and clearance, followed by whole-body PET-CT (computed tomography) imaging at 1 h and 24 h post-infusion (pi). Imaging results were subsequently validated by ex-vivo biodistribution.


Intravenous administration of 89ZrNB(DFO)2 and 89ZrG4(DFO)3(Bdiol)110 resulted in their negligible brain accumulation regardless of BBB status and timing of OBBBO. Intra-arterial (IA) administration of 89ZrNB(DFO)2 dramatically increased its brain uptake, which was further potentiated with prior OBBBO. Half of the initial brain uptake was retained after 24 h. In contrast, IA infusion of 89ZrG4(DFO)3(Bdiol)110 resulted in poor initial accumulation in the brain, with complete clearance within 1 h of administration. Ex-vivo biodistribution results reflected those on PET-CT.


IA delivery of nanobodies might be an attractive therapeutic platform for CNS disorders where prolonged intracranial retention is necessary.


PET Nanobody Dendrimer Intra-arterial Zirconium Brain 



This work was funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01NS091110, R21NS106436, P41 EB024495.

Compliance with ethical standards

Disclosure of potential conflict of interest

JAG has a financial and/or business interests in Gulliver Biomed BVBA, a company that licensed the tested nanobody; however, since the nanobody does not have a brain target there are no direct benefits to Gulliver Biomed. The remaining authors declared no conflict of interest related to the current work.

Ethical approval

All animal procedures were carried out under protocols approved by the Johns Hopkins Animal Care and Use Committee. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

259_2019_4347_MOESM1_ESM.docx (154 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 154 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wojciech G. Lesniak
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chengyan Chu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anna Jablonska
    • 1
    • 2
  • Babak Behnam Azad
    • 1
  • Olivier Zwaenepoel
    • 3
  • Michal Zawadzki
    • 4
  • Ala Lisok
    • 1
  • Martin G. Pomper
    • 1
  • Piotr Walczak
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jan Gettemans
    • 3
  • Miroslaw Janowski
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.The Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological ScienceJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Cell EngineeringJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biomolecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  4. 4.Department of RadiologyCentre of Postgraduate Medical EducationWarsawPoland

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