A nanoemulsion (NE) is a surfactant-based, oil-in-water, nanoscale, high-energy emulsion with a mean droplet diameter of 400–600 nm. When mixed with antigen and applied nasally, a NE acts as a mucosal adjuvant and induces mucosal immune responses. One possible mechanism for the adjuvant effect of this material is that it augments antigen uptake and distribution to lymphoid tissues, where the immune response is generated. Biocompatible iron oxide nanoparticles have been used as a unique imaging approach to study the dynamics of cells or molecular migration. To study the uptake of NEs and track them in vivo, iron oxide nanoparticles were synthesized and dispersed in soybean oil to make iron oxide-modified NEs. Our results show that iron oxide nanoparticles can be stabilized in the oil phase of the nanoemulsion at a concentration of 30 µg/μL and the iron oxide-modified NEs have a mean diameter of 521 nm. In vitro experiments demonstrated that iron oxide-modified NEs can affect uptake by TC-1 cells (a murine epithelial cell line) and reduce the intensity of magnetic resonance (MR) images by shortening the T2 time. Most importantly, in vivo studies demonstrated that iron oxide-modified NE could be detected in mouse nasal septum by both transmission electron microscopy and MR imaging. Altogether these experiments demonstrate that iron oxide-modified NE is a unique tool that can be used to study uptake and distribution of NEs after nasal application.
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