Uptake dynamics of graphene quantum dots into primary human blood cells following in vitro exposure†
Human leukocytes obtained from samples of leukapheresis products of three healthy donors stimulated by granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) were exposed to graphene quantum dots. A time- and concentration dependent uptake was observed with a significantly greater uptake into monocytes and granulocytes in comparison to lymphocytes, suggesting a better incorporation ability of cells with phagocytotic properties. The uptake rates also correlate with the cell membrane area. Looking at the different lymphoid subsets a greater uptake was found into CD19+ B-, CD56+ natural killer cells and CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) in comparison to CD4+ T- and CD8+ T cells. Independent of the cell type studied, the observed uptake dynamics is consistent with a diffusion-driven process, which allows the determination of cell-specific membrane permeabilities for the graphene quantum dots. The toxicity of the quantum dots is relatively low resulting in a 90% viability of the entire leukocyte population after 36 hours of exposure to GQDs at a concentration of 500 μg ml−1.