Interaction of Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles with Human Red Blood Cell Membranes: Size and Surface Effects

The interactions of mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs) of different particle sizes and surface properties with human red blood cell (RBC) membranes were investigated by membrane filtration, flow cytometry, and various microscopic techniques. Small MCM-41-type MSNs (∼100 nm) were found to adsorb to the surface of RBCs without disturbing the membrane or morphology. In contrast, adsorption of large SBA-15-type MSNs (∼600 nm) to RBCs induced a strong local membrane deformation leading to spiculation of RBCs, internalization of the particles, and eventual hemolysis. In addition, the relationship between the degree of MSN surface functionalization and the degree of its interaction with RBC, as well as the effect of RBC−MSN interaction on cellular deformability, were investigated. The results presented here provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of RBC−MSN interaction and the hemolytic activity of MSNs and will assist in the rational design of hemocompatible MSNs for intravenous drug delivery and in vivo imaging.