SiO2 nanoparticles biocompatibility and their potential for gene delivery and silencing

Nanoscale. 2012 Jan 21;4(2):486-95. doi: 10.1039/c1nr11269d. Epub 2011 Nov 18.


Despite the extensive use of silica nanoparticles (SiO(2)NPs) in many fields, the results about their potential toxicity are still controversial. In this work, we have performed a systematic in vitro study to assess the biological impact of SiO(2)NPs, by investigating 3 different sizes (25, 60 and 115 nm) and 2 surface charges (positive and negative) of the nanoparticles in 5 cell lines (3 in adherence and 2 in suspension). We analyzed the cellular uptake and distribution of the NPs along with their possible effects on cell viability, membrane integrity and generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Experimental results show that all the investigated SiO(2)NPs do not induce detectable cytotoxic effects (up to 2.5 nM concentration) in all cell lines, and that cellular uptake is mediated by an endocytic process strongly dependent on the particle size and independent of its original surface charge, due to protein corona effects. Once having assessed the biocompatibility of SiO(2)NPs, we have evaluated their potential in gene delivery, showing their ability to silence specific protein expression. The results of this work indicate that monodisperse and stable SiO(2)NPs are not toxic, revealing their promising potential in various biomedical applications.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • DNA / administration & dosage*
  • DNA / genetics*
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Humans
  • Nanocapsules / chemistry*
  • Nanocapsules / toxicity*
  • Silicon Dioxide / toxicity*
  • Transfection / methods*


  • Nanocapsules
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • DNA