Buoyant Nanoparticles: Implications for Nano-Biointeractions in Cellular Studies

C. Y. Watson, G. M. DeLoid, A. Pal, P. Demokritou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


In the safety and efficacy assessment of novel nanomaterials, the role of nanoparticle (NP) kinetics in in vitro studies is often ignored although it has significant implications in dosimetry, hazard ranking, and nanomedicine efficacy. It is demonstrated here that certain nanoparticles are buoyant due to low effective densities of their formed agglomerates in culture media, which alters particle transport and deposition, dose-response relationships, and underestimates toxicity and bioactivity. To investigate this phenomenon, this study determines the size distribution, effective density, and assesses fate and transport for a test buoyant NP (polypropylene). To enable accurate dose-response assessment, an inverted 96-well cell culture platform is developed in which adherent cells are incubated above the buoyant particle suspension. The effect of buoyancy is assessed by comparing dose-toxicity responses in human macrophages after 24 h incubation in conventional and inverted culture systems. In the conventional culture system, no adverse effects are observed at any NP concentration tested (up to 250 μg mL(-1) ), whereas dose-dependent decreases in viability and increases in reactive oxygen species are observed in the inverted system. This work sheds light on an unknown issue that plays a significant role in vitro hazard screening and proposes a standardized methodology for buoyant NP assessments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3172-3180
Number of pages9
JournalSmall (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)


  • dosimetry
  • engineered nanomaterials
  • nanomedicine
  • nanotoxicology


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