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Dextran-coated iron oxide nanoparticle-induced nanotoxicity in neuron cultures

Cornell Affiliated Author(s)


R.P. Badman
S.L. Moore
J.L. Killian
T. Feng
T.A. Cleland
F. Hu
M.D. Wang


Recent technological advances have introduced diverse engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) into our air, water, medicine, cosmetics, clothing, and food. However, the health and environmental effects of these increasingly common ENPs are still not well understood. In particular, potential neurological effects are one of the most poorly understood areas of nanoparticle toxicology (nanotoxicology), in that low-to-moderate neurotoxicity can be subtle and difficult to measure. Culturing primary neuron explants on planar microelectrode arrays (MEAs) has emerged as one of the most promising in vitro techniques with which to study neuro-nanotoxicology, as MEAs enable the fluorescent tracking of nanoparticles together with neuronal electrical activity recording at the submillisecond time scale, enabling the resolution of individual action potentials. Here we examine the dose-dependent neurotoxicity of dextran-coated iron oxide nanoparticles (dIONPs), a common type of functionalized ENP used in biomedical applications, on cultured primary neurons harvested from postnatal day 0–1 mouse brains. A range of dIONP concentrations (5–40 µg/ml) were added to neuron cultures, and cells were plated either onto well plates for live cell, fluorescent reactive oxidative species (ROS) and viability observations, or onto planar microelectrode arrays (MEAs) for electrophysiological measurements. Below 10 µg/ml, there were no dose-dependent cellular ROS increases or effects in MEA bursting behavior at sub-lethal dosages. However, above 20 µg/ml, cell death was obvious and widespread. Our findings demonstrate a significant dIONP toxicity in cultured neurons at concentrations previously reported to be safe for stem cells and other non-neuronal cell types. © 2020, The Author(s).

Date Published


Scientific Reports








Research Area

Group (Lab)

Michelle Wang Group

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