Over the last decade, magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (IONPs) have drawn much attention for their potential biomedical applications. However, serious in vitro and in vivo safety concerns continue to exist. In this study, the effects of uncoated, FemOn-SiO2 composite flake-like, and SiO2-FemOn core-shell IONPs on cell viability, function, and morphology were tested 48 h postincubation in human umbilical vein endothelial cell culture. Cell viability and apoptosis/necrosis rate were determined using 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay and annexin V-phycoerythrin kit, respectively. Cell morphology was evaluated using bright-field microscopy and forward and lateral light scattering profiles obtained with flow cytometry analysis. All tested IONP types were used at three different doses, that is, 0.7, 7.0, and 70.0 μg. Dose-dependent changes in cell morphology, viability, and apoptosis rate were shown. At higher doses, all types of IONPs caused formation of binucleated cells suggesting impaired cytokinesis. FemOn-SiO2 composite flake-like and SiO2-FemOn core-shell IONPs were characterized by similar profile of cytotoxicity, whereas bare IONPs were shown to be less toxic. The presence of either silica core or silica nanoflakes in composite IONPs can promote cytotoxic effects.
Keywords: composite nanoparticles; cytotoxicity; iron oxide nanoparticles; silica coating; silica nanoflakes.