Quantification of Nanoparticles at the Single-cell Level: An Overview About State-of-the-art Techniques and Their Limitations

Dimitri Vanhecke; Laura Rodriguez-Lorenzo; Martin JD Clift; Fabian Blank; Alke Petri-Fink; Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser


Nanomedicine. 2014;9(12):1885-1900. 

In This Article

Future Perspective

In contrast with the extensive literature available on the synthesis and physicochemical properties of NPs, information concerning their fundamental biological interactions remains fragmented at best. Understanding the interaction of NPs at the single-cell level, their uptake, intracellular trafficking and fate can provide essential information pertaining to the potential biological reactivity of any NP. Most of the nano-research is dedicated to a detailed description of the synthesis and characterization of NPs and their possible cellular reactions, however, a potential biomedical application of any NP requires a precise knowledge about the possible uptake into any cell and the subsequent intracellular particle distribution. In addition, the quantification of intracellular NPs is of great importance to understand the possible correlation between physicochemical characteristics of any NPs with the behavior in a living environment. We have presented different state-of-the-art methods that are nowadays routinely used for the detection and quantification of metals, metal oxides, magnetic, fluorescent, as well as electron dense NPs. In addition, emerging techniques that can quantify (and visualize) NPs at the single cell level are presented. However, since the detection of these small particles is challenging the limitations and pitfalls of each of these techniques need to be considered for the data interpretation and it is recommended to use more than only one method to receive a clear and non-biased NP number per cell.