Serum proteins prevent aggregation of Fe2O3 and ZnO nanoparticles

Mark A. Wells, Aamir Abid, Ian M. Kennedy, Abdul I. Barakat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Aggregation of metal oxide nanoparticles in aqueous media complicates interpretation of in vitro studies of nanoparticlecell interactions. We used dynamic light scattering to investigate the aggregation dynamics of iron oxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles. Our results show that iron oxide particles aggregate more readily than zinc oxide particles. Pretreatment with serum stabilises iron oxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles against aggregation. Serum-treated iron oxide is stable only in pure water, while zinc oxide is stable in water or cell culture media. These findings, combined with zeta potential measurements and quantification of proteins adsorbed on particle surface, suggest that serum stabilisation of iron oxide particles occurs primarily through protein adsorption and resulting net surface charge. Zinc oxide stabilisation, however, also involves steric hindrance of particle aggregation. Fluid shear at levels used in flow experiments breaks up iron oxide particle aggregates. These results enhance our understanding of nanoparticle aggregation and its consequences for research on the biological effects of nanomaterials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-846
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Dynamic light scattering
  • Fluid shear
  • Metal oxide nanoparticles
  • Particle aggregation
  • Particle aging
  • Zeta potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Toxicology


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