Immunological effects of iron oxide nanoparticles and iron-based complex drug formulations: Therapeutic benefits, toxicity, mechanistic insights, and translational considerations

Nanomedicine. 2018 Apr;14(3):977-990. doi: 10.1016/j.nano.2018.01.014. Epub 2018 Feb 2.


Nanotechnology offers several advantages for drug delivery. However, there is the need for addressing potential safety concerns regarding the adverse health effects of these unique materials. Some such effects may occur due to undesirable interactions between nanoparticles and the immune system, and they may include hypersensitivity reactions, immunosuppression, and immunostimulation. While strategies, models, and approaches for studying the immunological safety of various engineered nanoparticles, including metal oxides, have been covered in the current literature, little attention has been given to the interactions between iron oxide-based nanomaterials and various components of the immune system. Here we provide a comprehensive review of studies investigating the effects of iron oxides and iron-based nanoparticles on various types of immune cells, highlight current gaps in the understanding of the structure-activity relationships of these materials, and propose a framework for capturing their immunotoxicity to streamline comparative studies between various types of iron-based formulations.

Keywords: Drug delivery; Imaging; Immunotherapy; Immunotoxicity; Nanoparticles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Compounding
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Ferric Compounds / immunology*
  • Ferric Compounds / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry*


  • Ferric Compounds
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • ferric oxide