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Shape engineering vs organic modification of inorganic nanoparticles as a tool for enhancing cellular internalization

Didem Sen Karaman1, Diti Desai12, Rajendran Senthilkumar3, Emma M Johansson4, Natalie Råtts135, Magnus Odén4, John E Eriksson3, Cecilia Sahlgren35, Diana M Toivola36 and Jessica M Rosenholm1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Functional Materials, Laboratory of Physical Chemistry, Department of Natural Sciences, Åbo Akademi University, Porthansgatan 3-5, Turku, FI-20500, Finland

2 Pharmacy Department, Faculty of Tech. & Eng, The M.S. University of Baroda, Vadodara, Gujarat -390002, India

3 Department of Biosciences, Cell biology, Åbo Akademi University, Artillerigatan 6A, Turku FI-20520, Finland

4 Nanostructured Materials Division, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Linköping University, Linköping, SE-581 83, Sweden

5 Turku Centre for Biotechnology, University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, P.O. Box 123, Turku FI-20521, Finland

6 Turku Center for Disease Modeling, Kiinamyllynkatu 10, Turku FIN-20520, Finland

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2012, 7:358  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-7-358

Published: 1 July 2012


In nanomedicine, physicochemical properties of the nanocarrier affect the nanoparticle's pharmacokinetics and biodistribution, which are also decisive for the passive targeting and nonspecific cellular uptake of nanoparticles. Size and surface charge are, consequently, two main determining factors in nanomedicine applications. Another important parameter which has received much less attention is the morphology (shape) of the nanocarrier. In order to investigate the morphology effect on the extent of cellular internalization, two similarly sized but differently shaped rod-like and spherical mesoporous silica nanoparticles were synthesized, characterized and functionalized to yield different surface charges. The uptake in two different cancer cell lines was investigated as a function of particle shape, coating (organic modification), surface charge and dose. According to the presented results, particle morphology is a decisive property regardless of both the different surface charges and doses tested, whereby rod-like particles internalized more efficiently in both cell lines. At lower doses whereby the shape-induced advantage is less dominant, charge-induced effects can, however, be used to fine-tune the cellular uptake as a prospective ‘secondary’ uptake regulator for tight dose control in nanoparticle-based drug formulations.

mesoporous silica nanoparticles; surface functionalization; rod-shaped particles; surface charge; cellular internalization; nanomedicine