Dye-doped biodegradable nanoparticle SiO2 coating in zinc- and iron-oxide nanoparticles to improve biocompatibility and in vivo imaging studies
In vivo imaging and therapy represent one of the most promising areas in nanomedicine. Particularly, the identification and localization of nanomaterials within cells and tissues is a key issue to understand their interaction with biological components, namely their cell internalization route, intracellular destination, therapeutic activity and possible cytotoxicity. Here, we show the development of multifunctional nanoparticles (NPs) by providing luminescent functionality to zinc and iron oxide NPs. We describe simple synthesis methods based on modified Stöber procedures to incorporate fluorescent molecules on the surface of oxide NPs. These procedures involve the successful coating of NPs with size-controlled amorphous silica (SiO2) shells incorporating standard chromophores like fluorescein, rhodamine B or rhodamine B isothiocyanate. Specifically, spherical Fe3O4 NPs with an average size of 10 nm and commercial ZnO NPs (ca. 130 nm), both coated with an amorphous SiO2 shell of ca. 15 and 24 nm thickness, respectively, are presented. The magnetic nanoparticles, with a major presence of magnetite, show negligible coercitivity. Hence, interactions (dipolar) are very weak and the cores are in the superparamagnetic regime. Spectroscopic measurements confirm the presence of fluorescent molecules within the SiO2 shell, making these hybrid NPs suitable for bioimaging. Thus, our coating procedures improve NP dispersibility in physiological media and allow identification and location of intracellular ZnO and Fe3O4 NPs using confocal microscopy imaging preserving the fluorescence of the NP. We demonstrate how both Fe3O4 and ZnO NPs coated with luminescent SiO2 are internalized and accumulated in the cell cytoplasm after 24 hours. Besides, the SiO2 shell provides a platform for further functionalization that enables the design of targeted therapeutic strategies. Finally, we studied the degradation of the shell in different physiological environments, pointing out that the SiO2 coating is stable enough to reach the target cells maintaining its original structure. Degradation took place only 24 hours after exposure to different media.