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Cytotoxicity and variant cellular internalization behavior of water-soluble sulfonated nanographene sheets in liver cancer cells

Stuart J Corr123, Mustafa Raoof1, Brandon T Cisneros1, Oleksandr Kuznetsov34, Katheryn Massey1, Warna D Kaluarachchi1, Matthew A Cheney23, Edward W Billups2, Lon J Wilson23 and Steven A Curley156*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Surgical Oncology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Unit 107, Rm. T4.3936, 6767 Bertner, Houston, TX, 77030, USA

2 Department of Chemistry, Rice University, Houston, TX, 77005, USA

3 Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, Rice University, Houston, TX, 77005, USA

4 Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rice University, Houston, TX, 77005, USA

5 Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Rice University, Houston, TX, 77005, USA

6 Division of Surgery, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Unit 1447, 1400 Pressler Street, Houston, TX, 77230-1402, USA

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Citation and License

Nanoscale Research Letters 2013, 8:208  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-8-208

Published: 2 May 2013


Highly exfoliated sulfonated graphene sheets (SGSs), an alternative to graphene oxide and graphene derivatives, were synthesized, characterized, and applied to liver cancer cells in vitro. Cytotoxicity profiles were obtained using 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide, WST-1[2-(4-iodophenyl)-3-(4-nitrophenyl)-5-(2,4-disulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium, and lactate dehydrogenase release colorimetric assays. These particles were found to be non-toxic across the concentration range of 0.1 to 10 μg/ml. Internalization of SGSs was also studied by means of optical and electron microscopy. Although not conclusive, high-resolution transmission and scanning electron microscopy revealed variant internalization behaviors where some of the SGS became folded and compartmentalized into tight bundles within cellular organelles. The ability for liver cancer cells to internalize, fold, and compartmentalize graphene structures is a phenomenon not previously documented for graphene cell biology and should be further investigated.

Cytotoxicity; Sulfonated graphene sheets; Cancer cells