Date recorded: November 25 2020

The rapid development of nanotechnology has led to an increase in the number and variety of engineered nanomaterials in the environment. Identifying nanoparticle hazards to natural organisms is difficult, given the wide variety of nanoparticles, their diverse properties and the complexity of biological entities.

One of the key initiating events for a (nano)toxicological response is the interaction of nanoparticles with membranes. By using gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) and a minimal model system, we demonstrated the size dependency of the AuNP/membrane interaction. In our system, the interaction outcomes are driven by non-specific nanoparticle adhesion (non-receptor mediated) and the fate of a nanoparticle in contact with a membrane is determined by its size.

In this work, led by scientists at Imperial College London, the nanoparticle-membrane interaction is characterized by its heat of absorption. The interaction is therefore characterized by coupling qualitative data (e.g. DLS, TEM) with quantitative measurements of enthalpy change of interaction.

The experimental outcomes have direct relevance for theoretical and computational studies on the prediction of nanoparticles interacting with membranes. At the same time, the results provide new insights on the mechanisms of interaction between nanoparticles and membranes, which offers a two-fold advantage: better understanding of the key initiating events in the development of nanotoxicity, as well as design of efficient nanoparticle vectors for drug delivery.

About our Masterclass presenter:
Dr. Claudia Contini is a Research Associate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London. Her research interests lie in the field of bottom-up synthetic biology with a focus on the design of synthetic life-like systems that mimic biological properties and functions for biotechnological and biomedical applications.