The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


On predicting heterogeneity in nanoparticle dosage


  • Dowling, Celia V.
  • Cevaal, Paula M.
  • Faria, Matthew
  • Johnston, Stuart T.


Mathematical Biosciences, Volume 354, 2022-12-31

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Nanoparticles are increasingly employed as a vehicle for the targeted delivery of therapeutics to specific cell types. However, much remains to be discovered about the fundamental biology that dictates the interactions between nanoparticles and cells. Accordingly, few nanoparticle-based targeted therapeutics have succeeded in clinical trials. One element that hinders our understanding of nanoparticle–cell interactions is the presence of heterogeneity in nanoparticle dosage data obtained from standard experiments. It is difficult to distinguish between heterogeneity that arises from stochasticity in nanoparticle-cell interactions, and that which arises from heterogeneity in the cell population. Mathematical investigations have revealed that both sources of heterogeneity contribute meaningfully to the heterogeneity in nanoparticle dosage. However, these investigations have relied on simplified models of nanoparticle internalisation. Here we present a stochastic mathematical model of nanoparticle internalisation that incorporates a suite of relevant biological phenomena such as multistage internalisation, cell division, asymmetric nanoparticle inheritance and nanoparticle saturation. Critically, our model provides information about nanoparticle dosage at an individual cell level. We perform model simulations to examine the influence of specific biological phenomena on the heterogeneity in nanoparticle dosage in the absence of heterogeneity in the cell population. Under certain modelling assumptions, we derive analytic approximations of the nanoparticle dosage distribution. We demonstrate that the analytic approximations are accurate, and show that nanoparticle dosage can be described by a Poisson mixture distribution with rate parameters that are a function of Beta-distributed random variables. We discuss the implications of the analytic results with respect to parameter estimation and model identifiability from standard experimental data. Finally, we highlight extensions and directions for future research.