Nanotechnology Project

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Environment, Health and Safety Research

Fate of nanoparticles in mammalian cells: effect of composition, shape, size and surface charge

Project Information

Principal InvestigatorJake Barralet
InstitutionMcGill University
Project URLView
Relevance to ImplicationsHigh
Class of NanomaterialEngineered Nanomaterials
Impact SectorHuman Health
Broad Research Categories Characterization
NNI identifier

Funding Information

Anticipated Total Funding$86,883.00
Annual Funding$43,441.50
Funding SourceNSERC
Funding MechanismExtramural
Funding SectorGovernment
Start Year2005
Anticipated End Year2007


The purpose of this two-year study is to examine the effect of inorganic nanoparticle morphology, size, composition and surface charge, as well as the particle presentation method, for use with mammalian cells. The proposed experiments are designed to improve efficiency of delivery and to better understand nanoparticle uptake by cells. Particles may enter cells by endocytosis, of which there are three types: i) receptor-mediated, where the cell is stimulated to invaginate and internalise the particle, ii) pinocytosis, where cells effectively ‘drink’ colloidal particles, and iii) phagocytosis, an immune response by macrophages to eradicate foreign matter. Alternatively, the contents of liposome nanoparticles may enter the cell by direct membrane fusion. Pinocytosis is often the relevant mechanism for intracellular delivery of nanoparticles, and a variety of systems exist. Because of their nano size they can potentially evade detection by the immune system and have very large surface areas and so can absorb therapeutic molecules which can be delivered inside targeted cells so very small doses are required and only the diseased tissue is affected, which is not the case following oral doses or intravenous administration of drugs. Currently the effect of the nanoparticles’ chemistry and shape on the efficiency of these applications is unknown and we aim to investigate what parameters are important in determining success with this approach..