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The intrinsic heterogeneity of many nanoformulations is currently challenging to characterize on both the single particle and population level. Therefore, there is great opportunity to develop advanced techniques to describe and understand nanomedicine heterogeneity, which will aid translation to the clinic by informing manufacturing quality control, characterization for regulatory bodies, and connecting nanoformulation properties to clinical outcomes to enable rational design. Here, we present an analytical technique to provide such information, while measuring the nanocarrier and cargo simultaneously with label-free, nondestructive single particle automated Raman trapping analysis (SPARTA). We first synthesized a library of model compounds covering a range of hydrophilicities and providing distinct Raman signals. These compounds were then loaded into model nanovesicles (polymersomes) that can load both hydrophobic and hydrophilic cargo into the membrane or core regions, respectively. Using our analytical framework, we characterized the heterogeneity of the population by correlating the signal per particle from the membrane and cargo. We found that core and membrane loading can be distinguished, and we detected subpopulations of highly loaded particles in certain cases. We then confirmed the suitability of our technique in liposomes, another nanovesicle class, including the commercial formulation Doxil. Our label-free analytical technique precisely determines cargo location alongside loading and release heterogeneity in nanomedicines, which could be instrumental for future quality control, regulatory body protocols, and development of structure-function relationships to bring more nanomedicines to the clinic.

Original publication




Journal article


ACS Nano

Publication Date



Raman spectroscopy, drug-loading, nanomedicines, polymersomes, single particle