Drug delivery using nano-sized carriers holds tremendous potential for curing a range of diseases. The internalisation of nanoparticles by cells, however, remains poorly understood, restricting the possibility for optimising entrance into target cells, avoiding off-target cells and evading clearance. The majority of nanoparticle cell uptake studies have been performed in the presence of only the particle of interest; here, we instead report measurements of uptake when the cells are exposed to two different types of nanoparticles at the same time. We used carboxylated polystyrene nanoparticles of two different sizes as a model system and exposed them to HeLa cells in the presence of a biomolecular corona. Using flow cytometry, we quantify the uptake at both average and individual cell level. Consistent with previous literature, we show that uptake of the larger particles is impeded in the presence of competing smaller particles and, conversely, that uptake of the smaller particles is promoted by competing larger particles. While the mechanism(s) underlying these observations remain(s) undetermined, we are partly able to restrain the likely possibilities. In the future, these effects could conceivably be used to enhance uptake of nano-sized particles used for drug delivery, by administering two different types of particles at the same time.
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