Review abstract

Nature Materials 8, 543 - 557 (2009)
Published online: 14 June 2009 | doi:10.1038/nmat2442

Understanding biophysicochemical interactions at the nano–bio interface

Andre E. Nel1, Lutz Mädler2, Darrell Velegol3, Tian Xia1, Eric M. V. Hoek4, Ponisseril Somasundaran5, Fred Klaessig6, Vince Castranova7 & Mike Thompson8

Rapid growth in nanotechnology is increasing the likelihood of engineered nanomaterials coming into contact with humans and the environment. Nanoparticles interacting with proteins, membranes, cells, DNA and organelles establish a series of nanoparticle/biological interfaces that depend on colloidal forces as well as dynamic biophysicochemical interactions. These interactions lead to the formation of protein coronas, particle wrapping, intracellular uptake and biocatalytic processes that could have biocompatible or bioadverse outcomes. For their part, the biomolecules may induce phase transformations, free energy releases, restructuring and dissolution at the nanomaterial surface. Probing these various interfaces allows the development of predictive relationships between structure and activity that are determined by nanomaterial properties such as size, shape, surface chemistry, roughness and surface coatings. This knowledge is important from the perspective of safe use of nanomaterials.

  1. Division of NanoMedicine, David Geffen School of Medicine and California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.
  2. Foundation Institute of Materials Science (IWT), Department of Production Engineering, University of Bremen, Bremen 28359, Germany
  3. Department of Chemical Engineering, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA
  4. Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, and California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA
  5. Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Langmuir Center for Colloids and Interfaces, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA
  6. Pennsylvania Bio Nano Systems, 3805 Old Easton Road, Doylestown, Pennsylvania 18902, USA
  7. NIOSH, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, West Virginia 26505, USA
  8. FEI Company, 5350 NE Dawson Creek Drive, Hillsboro, Oregon 97124, USA

Correspondence to: Andre E. Nel1 e-mail:


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