Real-time assessment of nanoparticle-mediated antigen delivery and cell response

Cunha-Matos, Carlota A. and Millington, Owain R. and Wark, Alastair W. and Zagnoni, Michele (2016) Real-time assessment of nanoparticle-mediated antigen delivery and cell response. Lab on a Chip, 16 (17). pp. 3374-3381. ISSN 1473-0197 (

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Nanomaterials are increasingly being developed for applications in biotechnology, including the delivery of therapeutic drugs and of vaccine antigens. However, there is a lack of screening systems that can rapidly assess the dynamics of nanoparticle uptake and their consequential effects on cells. Established in vitro approaches are often carried out on a single time point, rely on time-consuming bulk measurements and are based primarily on populations of cell lines. As such, these procedures provide averaged results, do not guarantee precise control over the delivery of nanoparticles to cells and cannot easily generate information about the dynamics of nanoparticle-cell interactions and/or nanoparticle-mediated compound delivery. Combining microfluidics and nanotechnology with imaging techniques, we present a microfluidic platform to monitor nanoparticle uptake and intracellular processing in real-time and at the single-cell level. As proof-of-concept application, the potential of such a system for understanding nanovaccine delivery and processing was investigated and we demonstrate controlled delivery of ovalbumin-conjugated gold nanorods to primary dendritic cells. Using time-lapse microscopy, our approach allowed monitoring of uptake and processing of nanoparticles across a range of concentrations over several hours on hundreds of single-cells. This system represents a novel application of single-cell microfluidics for nanomaterial screening, providing a general platform for studying the dynamics of cell-nanomaterial interactions and representing a cost-saving and time-effective screening tool for many nanomaterial formulations and cell types.


Cunha-Matos, Carlota A. ORCID logoORCID:, Millington, Owain R. ORCID logoORCID:, Wark, Alastair W. ORCID logoORCID: and Zagnoni, Michele ORCID logoORCID:;