The influence of cell and nanoparticle properties on heating and cell death in a radiofrequency field

Yuri Mackeyev, Colette Mark, Natasha Kumar, Rita Serda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The use of non-invasive radiofrequency (RF) energy to induce mild thermal and non-thermal effects in cancer tissue is under study as an adjuvant to chemo, radio or immuno therapy. This study examines cell specific sensitivities to RF exposure and the potential of nanoparticles to elevate heating rates or enhance biological effects. Increases in the heating rate of water in an RF field operating at 13.56 MHz (0.004–0.028 °C/s) were positively correlated with concentration of hybrid nanoparticles (1–10 mg/ml) consisting of water soluble malonodiserinolamide [60]fullerene (C60-ser) conjugated to the surface of mesoporous silica nanoparticles (SiO2-C60). The heating rate of highly conductive cell culture media (0.024 °C/s) was similar to that of the highest concentration of nanoparticles in water, with no significant increase due to addition of nanoparticles at relevant doses (<100 μg/ml). With respect to cell viability, anionic (SiO2 and SiO2-C60) or neutral (C60) nanoparticles did not influence RF-induced cell death, however, cationic nanoparticles (4–100 μg/ml) caused dose-dependent increases in RF-induced cell death (24–42% compared to RF only). The effect of cell type, size and immortalization on sensitivity of cells to RF fields was examined in endothelial (HUVEC and HMVEC), fibroblast (primary dermal and L939) and cancer cells (HeLa and 4T1). While the state of cellular immortalization itself did not consistently influence the rate of RF-induced cell death compared to normal cell counter parts, cell size (ranging from 7 to 30 μm) negatively correlated with cell sensitivity to RF (21–97% cell death following 6 min irradiation). In summary, while nanoparticles do not alter the heating rate of biologically-relevant solutions, they can increase RF-induced cell death based on intrinsic cytotoxicity; and cells with smaller radii, and thereby greater surface membrane, are more susceptible to cell damage in an RF field than larger cells. Statement of Significance The ability of nanoparticles to either direct heating or increase susceptibility of cancer cells to radiofrequency (RF) energy remains controversial, as is the impact of cell attributes on susceptibility of cells to RF-induced cell death. This manuscript examines the impact of nanoparticle charge, size, and cellular localization on RF-induced cell death and the influence of nanoparticles on the heating rates of water and biologically-relevant media. Susceptibility of immortalized or primary cells to RF energy and the impact of cell size are also examined. The ability to selectively modulate RF heating rates in specific biological locations or in specific cell populations would enhance the therapeutic potential of RF therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-630
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Apr 15 2017


  • Cancer
  • Cell radii
  • Fullerene
  • Hyperthermia
  • Nanoparticle
  • Radiofrequency
  • Silica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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