Interfacing engineered nanoparticles with biological systems: Anticipating adverse nano-bio interactions

Beatriz Pelaz, Gaëlle Charron, Christian Pfeiffer, Yuliang Zhao, Jesus M. De La Fuente, Xing Jie Liang, Wolfgang J. Parak, Pablo Del Pino

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


The innovative use of engineered nanomaterials in medicine, be it in therapy or diagnosis, is growing dramatically. This is motivated by the current extraordinary control over the synthesis of complex nanomaterials with a variety of biological functions (e.g. contrast agents, drug-delivery systems, transducers, amplifiers, etc.). Engineered nanomaterials are found in the bio-context with a variety of applications in fields such as sensing, imaging, therapy or diagnosis. As the degree of control to fabricate customized novel and/or enhanced nanomaterials evolves, often new applications, devices with enhanced performance or unprecedented sensing limits can be achieved. Of course, interfacing any novel material with biological systems has to be critically analyzed as many undesirable adverse effects can be triggered (e.g. toxicity, allergy, genotoxicity, etc.) and/or the performance of the nanomaterial can be compromised due to the unexpected phenomena in physiological environments (e.g. corrosion, aggregation, unspecific absorption of biomolecules, etc.). Despite the need for standard protocols for assessing the toxicity and bio-performance of each new functional nanomaterial, these are still scarce or currently under development. Nonetheless, nanotoxicology and relating adverse effects to the physico-chemical properties of nanomaterials are emerging areas of the utmost importance which have to be continuously revisited as any new material emerges. This review highlights recent progress concerning the interaction of nanomaterials with biological systems and following adverse effects. The biological fate of engineered nanoparticles (NPs) in physiological media is discussed. The four color-labeled scenarios illustrate (green) potential adverse effects following protein adsorption, (orange) functionalization of NPs with cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) and antibodies (active targeting), (yellow) the possibility of 'passivating' NPs with suitable coatings, (blue) and adverse effects such as 'NP dissolution' and reactive oxygen species generation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1573-1584
Number of pages12
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - May 27 2013


  • active/passive targeting
  • anti-fouling coatings
  • opsonization
  • protein adsorption
  • ROS generation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Biotechnology
  • Medicine(all)


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