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Parameters and characteristics governing cellular internalization and trans-barrier trafficking of nanostructures

Authors Murugan K, Choonara YE, Kumar P, Bijukumar D, du Toit LC, Pillay V

Received 10 October 2014

Accepted for publication 28 November 2014

Published 18 March 2015 Volume 2015:10(1) Pages 2191—2206

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S75615

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Carlos Rinaldi


Karmani Murugan, Yahya E Choonara, Pradeep Kumar, Divya Bijukumar, Lisa C du Toit, Viness Pillay

Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform Research Unit, Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, School of Therapeutic Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Abstract: Cellular internalization and trans-barrier transport of nanoparticles can be manipulated on the basis of the physicochemical and mechanical characteristics of nanoparticles. Research has shown that these factors significantly influence the uptake of nanoparticles. Dictating these characteristics allows for the control of the rate and extent of cellular uptake, as well as delivering the drug-loaded nanosystem intra-cellularly, which is imperative for drugs that require a specific cellular level to exert their effects. Additionally, physicochemical characteristics of the nanoparticles should be optimal for the nanosystem to bypass the natural restricting phenomena of the body and act therapeutically at the targeted site. The factors at the focal point of emerging smart nanomedicines include nanoparticle size, surface charge, shape, hydrophobicity, surface chemistry, and even protein and ligand conjugates. Hence, this review discusses the mechanism of internalization of nanoparticles and ideal nanoparticle characteristics that allow them to evade the biological barriers in order to achieve optimal cellular uptake in different organ systems. Identifying these parameters assists with the progression of nanomedicine as an outstanding vector of pharmaceuticals.

Keywords: nanoparticles, transport mechanisms, cellular uptake, size, shape, charge

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