Research Paper

Pharmaceutical Research

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 457-467

First online:

Cell-Based Multiscale Computational Modeling of Small Molecule Absorption and Retention in the Lungs

  • Jing-yu YuAffiliated withDepartment of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan
  • , Gus R. RosaniaAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmaceutical Science, College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan Email author 

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For optimizing the local, pulmonary targeting of inhaled medications, it is important to analyze the relationship between the physicochemical properties of small molecules and their absorption, retention and distribution in the various cell types of the airways and alveoli.


A computational, multiscale, cell-based model was constructed to facilitate analysis of pulmonary drug transport and distribution. The relationship between the physicochemical properties and pharmacokinetic profile of monobasic molecules was explored. Experimental absorption data of compounds with diverse structures were used to validate this model. Simulations were performed to evaluate the effect of active transport and organelle sequestration on the absorption kinetics of compounds.


Relating the physicochemical properties to the pharmacokinetic profiles of small molecules reveals how the absorption half-life and distribution of compounds are expected to vary in different cell types and anatomical regions of the lung. Based on logP, pKa and molecular radius, the absorption rate constants (Ka) calculated with the model were consistent with experimental measurements of pulmonary drug absorption.


The cell-based mechanistic model developed herein is an important step towards the rational design of local, lung-targeted medications, facilitating the design and interpretation of experiments aimed at optimizing drug transport properties in lung.


computational modeling drug absorption drug delivery drug targeting lung pharmacokinetics physicochemical properties