Protective Effects of Bovine Serum Albumin on Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles Evaluated in the Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans
Nanomaterials give rise to unique biological reactivity that needs to be thoroughly investigated. The quest for enhanced magnetic nanomaterials of different shapes, magnetic properties, or surface coatings continues for applications in drug delivery, targeting therapies, biosensing, and magnetic separation. In this context, the use of simple in vivo models, such as Caenorhabditis elegans, to biologically evaluate nanoparticles is currently in increasing demand as it offers low-cost and information-rich experiments. In this work, we evaluated how surface modification (citrate- and protein-coated) of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (C-SPIONs and BSA-SPIONs, respectively) induces changes in their toxicological profile and biodistribution using the animal model C. elegans and combining techniques from materials science and biochemistry. The acute toxicity and nanoparticle distribution were assessed in two populations of worms (adults and larvae) treated with both types of SPIONs. After 24 h treatment, nanoparticles were localized in the alimentary system of C. elegans; acute toxicity was stronger in adults and larvae exposed to C-SPIONs rather than BSA-SPIONs. Adult uptake was similar for both SPION types, whereas uptake in larvae was dependent on the surface coating, being higher for BSA-SPIONs. Nanoparticle size was evaluated upon excretion, and a slight size decrease was found. Interestingly, all results indicate the protective effects of the BSA to prevent degradation of the nanoparticles and decrease acute toxicity to the worms, especially at high concentrations. We argue that this relevant information on the chemistry and toxicity of SPIONs in vivo could not be gathered using more classical in vitro approaches such as cell culture assays, thus endorsing the potential of C. elegans to assess nanomaterials at early stages of their synthetic formulations.