Lipid surface modifications increase mesoporous silica nanoparticle labeling properties in mesenchymal stem cells

Roger Rosenbrand, David Barata, Pichaporn Sutthavas, Ronny Mohren, Berta Cillero-Pastor, Pamela Habibovic, and Sabine van Rijt

Published: 01/01/2018



Nanoparticles have emerged as promising cell-labeling tools, as they can be precisely tailored in terms of chemical and physical properties. Mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs), in particular, are easily tunable with regard to surface and core chemistry, and are able to confine dyes and drug molecules efficiently.


The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of lipid and polyethylene glycol (PEG) surface modifications on MSN stem-cell-tracking abilities.


Lipid and PEG surface functionalized MSNs were synthesized and the effect of surface functionalization on cell internalization, proliferation, differentiation and cell proteomics was investigated in patient derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).


MSNs and lipid surface-modified MSNs were internalized by >80% of the MSC population, with the exception of nanoparticles modified with short PEG chains (molecular weight 750 [MSN-PEG750]). Lipid-modified MSNs had higher labeling efficiency with maximum uptake after 2 hours of exposure and were in addition internalized 17 times higher compared to unmodified MSNs, without negatively affecting differentiation capacity. Using a mass-spectrometry-based label-free quantitative proteomics approach, we show that MSN labeling leads to the up- and downregulation of proteins that were unique for the different surface-modified MSNs. In addition, functional enrichments were found in human MSCs labeled with MSNs, MSN-PEG750, and lipid-modified MSNs.


Here we show that organic modifications with lipids and PEGylation can be used as a promising strategy to improve MSN labeling capabilities. In particular, we show that lipid modifications can optimize such probes in three distinct ways: significantly improved signal strength, a barrier for sustained release of additional probes, and improved stem-cell-labeling efficiency.

Full Access Link: International Journal of Nanomedicine