Nonlamellar lipid-based liquid crystalline (LLC) nanoparticles possessing different internal nanostructures, specifically the 3D-ordered cubosomes (V2 phase) and the 2D-ordered hexosomes (H2 phase), are of increasing interest as drug delivery systems. To facilitate their development, it is important that we understand their interactions with healthy human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). To this end, a 3D cells-in-a-tube model that recapitulates the basic morphology (i.e. tubular lumen) and in vivo microenvironment (i.e. physiological shear stress) of blood vessels was employed as a biomimetic testing platform, and the bio-nanoparticle interactions were compared with that of the conventional 2D planar cell culture. Confocal microscopy imaging revealed internalisation of the nanoparticles into HUVECs within 2 h and that the nanoparticle-cell interactions of cubosomes and hexosomes were not significantly different from one another. Low fluid shear stress conditions (i.e. venous simulation at 0.8 dynes/cm2) were shown to impose subtle effects on the degree of nanoparticle-cell interactions as compared with the static 2D culture. The unexpected similarity of cellular interactions between cubosomes and hexosomes was clarified via a real-time phase behaviour analysis using the synchrotron-based small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) technique. When the nanoparticles came into contact with HUVECs under circulating conditions, the cubosomes gradually evolved into hexosomes (within 16 min). In contrast, the hexosomes retained their original internal structure with minimal changes to the lattice parameters. This study highlights the need to couple cellular studies with high-resolution analytics such as time-resolved SAXS analysis to ensure that particle structures are verified in situ, enabling accurate interpretation of the dynamics of cellular interactions and potential bio-induced changes of particles intended for biomedical applications.
- 3D vascular endothelial model
- Cell-nanoparticle interaction
- Self-assembled liquid crystalline nanoparticle