Superparamagnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) show great promise for multiple applications in biomedicine. While a number of studies have examined their safety profile, the toxicity of these particles on reproductive organs remains uncertain. The goal of this study was to evaluate the cytotoxicity of starch-coated, aminated, and PEGylated SPIONs on a cell line derived from Chinese Hamster ovaries (CHO-K1 cells). We evaluated the effect of particle diameter (50 and 100 nm) and polyethylene glycol (PEG) chain length (2k, 5k and 20k Da) on the cytotoxicity of SPIONs by investigating cell viability using the tetrazolium dye 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) and sulforhodamine B (SRB) assays. The kinetics and extent of SPION uptake by CHO-K1 cells was also studied, as well as the resulting generation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS). Cell toxicity profiles of SPIONs correlated strongly with their cellular uptake kinetics, which was strongly dependent on surface properties of the particles. PEGylation caused a decrease in both uptake and cytotoxicity compared to aminated SPIONs. Interestingly, 2k Da PEG-modifed SPIONs displayed the lowest cellular uptake and cytotoxicity among all studied particles. These results emphasize the importance of surface coatings when engineering nanoparticles for biomedical applications.
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