Neuronal cells loaded with PEI-coated Fe3O4 nanoparticles for magnetically guided nerve regeneration

M. Pilar Calatayud, Christina Riggio, Vittoria Raffa, Beatrice Sanz, Teobaldo Torres, M. Ricardo Ibarra, Clare Hoskins, Alfred Cuschieri, Lijun Wang, Josephine Pinkernelle, Gerburg Khielhoff, Gerardo Goya

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33 Citations (Scopus)


We report a one-step synthesis protocol for obtaining polymer-coated magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) engineered for uploading neural cells. Polyethyleneimine-coated Fe3O4 nanoparticles (PEI-MNPs) with sizes of 25 ± 5 nm were prepared by oxidation of Fe(OH)2 by nitrate in basic aqueous media and adding PEI in situ during synthesis. The obtained PEI-MNP cores displayed a neat octahedral morphology and high crystallinity. The resulting nanoparticles were coated with a thin polymer layer of about 0.7–0.9 nm, and displayed a saturation magnetization value MS = 58 A m2 kg−1 at 250 K (64 A m2 kg−1 for T = 10 K). Cell uptake experiments on a neuroblastoma-derived SH-SY5Y cell line were undertaken over a wide time and MNP concentration range. The results showed a small decrease in cell viability for 24 h incubation (down to 70% viability for 100 μg ml−1), increasing the toxic effects with incubation time (30% cell survival at 100 μg ml−1 for 7 days of incubation). On the other hand, primary neuronal cells displayed higher sensitivity to PEI-MNPs, with a cell viability reduction of 44% of the control cells after 3 days of incubation with 50 μg ml−1. The amount of PEI-MNPs uploaded by SH-SY5Y cells was found to have a linear dependence on concentration. The intracellular distribution of the PEI-MNPs analyzed at the single-cell level by the dual-beam (FIB/SEM) technique revealed the coexistence of both fully incorporated PEI-MNPs and partially internalized PEI-MNP-clusters crossing the cell membrane. The resulting MNP-cluster distributions open the possibility of using these PEI-MNPs for magnetically driven axonal re-growth in neural cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3607–3616
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry B
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2013


  • neuronal cells
  • polymer-coated nanoparticles
  • magnetic nanoparticles
  • nerve regeneration

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    Calatayud, M. P., Riggio, C., Raffa, V., Sanz, B., Torres, T., Ibarra, M. R., Hoskins, C., Cuschieri, A., Wang, L., Pinkernelle, J., Khielhoff, G., & Goya, G. (2013). Neuronal cells loaded with PEI-coated Fe3O4 nanoparticles for magnetically guided nerve regeneration. Journal of Materials Chemistry B, 1(29), 3607–3616.