Silver nanoparticles are commonly used in a variety of commercial and medical products. Here we investigate the effects of standard sterilization methods, including heat/steam (autoclave) and gamma-irradiation on the structural integrity and biocompatibility of citrate-stabilized silver nanoparticles with nominal sizes of 20, 40, 60 and 80 nm. Particle size, shape and in vitro biocompatibility were studied pre- and post-sterilization. Sterilization by gamma irradiation at dose levels commonly used in medical device industry (15, 25 and 50 kGy) resulted in dramatic changes in particle size and morphology, as monitored by dynamic light scattering (DLS) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Exposing the particles to a chemical producer of hydroxyl radicals (N-hydroxy-2-pyridinethione) allowed us to duplicate the sterilization-based changes in size and morphology, implying a free radical mechanism of action. Compared to untreated controls, we also observed a three- to five-fold increase in tendency of sterilized silver nanoparticles to cause platelet aggregation, a sensitive in vitro indicator of thrombogenicity.
Keywords: Autoclave; Gamma irradiation; Hematocompatibility; Particle size; Silver nanoparticles; Sterilization.