Iron oxide nanoparticles are of particular interest for drug delivery applications, since they can be targeted to a specific location using a magnetic field. We are interested in delivering drugs to atherosclerotic plaques via these nanoparticles. However, prior to using nanoparticles in vivo, they must be shown as relatively non-toxic to cells. We and others have shown that bare iron oxide nanoparticles are readily taken up by cells, where they catalyze production of highly toxic reactive oxygen species [1]. This oxidative stress disrupts the cell cytoskeleton, alters cell mechanics, and may change other critical cell functions. Iron oxide nanoparticles for in vivo biomedical applications are often coated with a polysaccharide (eg. dextran) or a polymer (eg. polyethylene glycol, PEG). Both the size and the surface coating of the nanoparticle play an important role in cell toxicity.

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