In vitro methods for assessing nanoparticle toxicity

Dustin T. Savage, J. Zach Hilt, Thomas D. Dziubla

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

86 Scopus citations


As a consequence of their increase in annual production and widespread distribution in the environment, nanoparticles potentially pose a significant public health risk. The sought-after catalytic activity granted by their physiochemical properties doubles as a hazard to physiological processes following exposure through inhalation, oral, transdermal, subcutaneous, and intravenous uptake. Upon uptake into the body, their size, morphology, surface charge, coating, and chemical composition augment the response of biological systems to the materials and enhance their toxicity. Identification of each property is necessary to predict the harm imposed by foreign nanomaterials in the body. Assay methods ranging from endotoxin and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) signaling to apoptosis and oxidative stress detection supply valuable techniques for exposing biomarkers of nanoparticle-induced cellular damage. Spectroscopic investigation of epithelial barrier permeation and distribution within living cells reveals the proclivity of nanoparticles to penetrate the body’s natural defensive boundaries and deposit themselves in cytotoxic locations. Combination of the various characterization methodologies and assays is required for every new nanoparticulate system despite preexisting data for similar systems due to the lack of deterministic trends among investigated nanoparticles. The propensity of nanomaterials to denature proteins and oxidize substrates in their local environment generates significant concern for the applicability of several traditional in vitro assays, and the modification of susceptible approaches into novel methods suitable for the evaluation of nanoparticles comprises the focus of future work centered on nanoparticle toxicity analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMethods in Molecular Biology
Number of pages29
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameMethods in Molecular Biology
ISSN (Print)1064-3745

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019.


  • Biocompatibility
  • In vitro assays
  • Mechanisms of toxicity
  • Nanomaterials
  • Nanoparticle characterization
  • Nanoparticle toxicity
  • Nanoparticle-cell interaction
  • Reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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