Inorganic nanoparticles as carriers for efficient cellular delivery

Zhi Ping Xu, Qing Hua Zeng, Gao Qing Lu, Ai Bing Yu

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426 Citations (Scopus)


Cellular delivery involving the transfer of various drugs and bio-active molecules (peptides, proteins and DNAs, etc.) through the cell membrane into cells has attracted increasing attention because of its importance in medicine and drug delivery. This topic has been extensively reviewed. The direct delivery of drugs and biomolecules, however, is generally inefficient and suffering from problems such as enzymic degradation of DNAs. Therefore, searching for efficient and safe transport vehicles (carriers) to delivery genes or drugs into cells has been challenging yet exciting area of research. In past decades, many carriers have been developed and investigated extensively which can be generally classified into four major groups: viral carriers, organic cationic compounds, recombinant protiens and inorganic nanoparticles. Many inorganic materials, such as calcium phosphate, gold, carbon materials, silicon oxide, iron oxide and layered double hydroxide (LDH), have been studied. Inorganic nanoparticles show low toxicity and promise for controlled delivery properties, thus presenting a new alternative to viral carriers and cationic carriers. Inorganic nanoparticles generally possess versatile properties suitable for cellular delivery, including wide availability, rich functionality, good biocompatibility, potential capability of targeted delivery (e.g. selectively destroying cancer cells but sparing normal tissues) and controlled release of carried drugs. This paper reviews the latest advances in inorganic nanoparticle applications as cellular delivery carriers and highlights some key issues in efficient cellular delivery using inorganic nanoparticles. Critical properties of inorganic nanoparticles, surface functionalisation (modification), uptake of biomolecules, the driving forces for delivery, and release of biomolecules will be reviewed systematically. Selected examples of promising inorganic nanoparticle delivery systems, including gold, fullerences and carbon nanotubes, LDH and various oxide nanoparticles in particular their applications for gene delivery will be discussed. The fundamental understanding of properties of inorganic nanoparticles in relation to cellular delivery efficiency as the most paramount issue will be highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1027-1040
Number of pages14
JournalChemical Engineering Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cellular delivery
  • DNA and drug delivery
  • Inorganic nanoparticles
  • Surface functionalisation

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