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High Resolution Characterization of Engineered Nanomaterial Dispersions in Complex Media Using Tunable Resistive Pulse Sensing Technology

Anoop K. Pal, Iraj Aalaei, Suresh Gadde, Peter Gaines, Daniel Schmidt, Philip Demokritou, and Dhimiter Bello
ACS Nano, 2014, 8 (9), pp 9003–9015

In vitro toxicity assessment of engineered nanomaterials (ENM), the most common testing platform for ENM, requires prior ENM dispersion, stabilization, and characterization in cell culture media. Dispersion inefficiencies and active aggregation of particles often result in polydisperse and multimodal particle size distributions. Accurate characterization of important properties of such polydisperse distributions (size distribution, effective density, charge, mobility, aggregation kinetics, etc.) is critical for understanding differences in the effective dose delivered to cells as a function of time and dispersion conditions, as well as for nano–bio interactions. Here we have investigated the utility of tunable nanopore resistive pulse sensing (TRPS) technology for characterization of four industry relevant ENMs (oxidized single-walled carbon nanohorns, carbon black, cerium oxide and nickel nanoparticles) in cell culture media containing serum. Harvard dispersion and dosimetry platform was used for preparing ENM dispersions and estimating delivered dose to cells based on dispersion characterization input from dynamic light scattering (DLS) and TRPS. The slopes of cell death vs administered and delivered ENM dose were then derived and compared. We investigated the impact of serum protein content, ENM concentration, and cell medium on the size distributions. The TRPS technology offers higher resolution and sensitivity compared to DLS and unique insights into ENM size distribution and concentration, as well as particle behavior and morphology in complex media. The in vitro dose–response slopes changed significantly for certain nanomaterials when delivered dose to cells was taken into consideration, highlighting the importance of accurate dispersion and dosimetry in in vitro nanotoxicology.

Keywords: .nanomaterial; size distribution; TRPS; DLS; effective density; cytotoxicity

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