Biocompatibility of very small superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in murine organotypic hippocampal slice cultures and the role of microglia

Int J Nanomedicine. 2017 Feb 27:12:1577-1591. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S127206. eCollection 2017.


Superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIO) are applied as contrast media for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and treatment of neurologic diseases despite the fact that important information concerning their local interactions is still lacking. Due to their small size, SPIO have great potential for magnetically labeling different cell populations, facilitating their MRI tracking in vivo. Before SPIO are applied, however, their effect on cell viability and tissue homoeostasis should be studied thoroughly. We have previously published data showing how citrate-coated very small superparamagnetic iron oxide particles (VSOP) affect primary microglia and neuron cell cultures as well as neuron-glia cocultures. To extend our knowledge of VSOP interactions on the three-dimensional multicellular level, we further examined the influence of two types of coated VSOP (R1 and R2) on murine organotypic hippocampal slice cultures. Our data show that 1) VSOP can penetrate deep tissue layers, 2) long-term VSOP-R2 treatment alters cell viability within the dentate gyrus, 3) during short-term incubation VSOP-R1 and VSOP-R2 comparably modify hippocampal cell viability, 4) VSOP treatment does not affect cytokine homeostasis, 5) microglial depletion decreases VSOP uptake, and 6) microglial depletion plus VSOP treatment increases hippocampal cell death during short-term incubation. These results are in line with our previous findings in cell coculture experiments regarding microglial protection of neurite branching. Thus, we have not only clarified the interaction between VSOP, slice culture, and microglia to a degree but also demonstrated that our model is a promising approach for screening nanoparticles to exclude potential cytotoxic effects.

Keywords: SPIO; VSOP; hippocampus; organotypic; viability.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles / administration & dosage*
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Materials Testing / methods*
  • Mice
  • Microglia / cytology*
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Organ Culture Techniques


  • Magnetite Nanoparticles