University of Limerick
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Standardization of research methods employed in assessing the interaction metallic-based nanoparticles and the blood-brain barrier: present and future perspectives

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Treating diseases of the central nervous system (CNS) is complicated by the presence of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a semipermeable boundary layer protecting the CNS from toxins and homeostatic disruptions. However, this layer also excludes almost 100% of therapeutics, impeding the treatment of CNS diseases. The advent of nanoparticles, in particular metallic-based nanoparticles, presents the potential to overcome this barrier and transport drugs into the CNS. Recent interest in metallic-based nanoparticles has generated an immense array of information pertaining to nanoparticles of different materials, sizes, morphologies, and surface properties. Nanoparticles with different physico-chemical properties lead to distinct nanoparticle-host interactions; yet, comprehensive characterization is often not completed. Similarly, in vivo testing has involved a mixed evaluation of parameters, including: BBB permeability, integrity, biodistribution, and toxicity. The methods applied to assess these parameters are inconsistent; this complicates the comparison of different nanoparticle-host system responses. A systematic review was conducted to investigate the methods by which metallic-based nanoparticles are characterized and assessed in vivo. The introduction of a standardized approach to nanoparticle characterization and in vivo testing is crucial if research is to transition to a clinical setting. The approach suggested, herein, is based on equipment and techniques that are accessible and informative to facilitate the routine incorporation of this standardized, informative approach into different research settings. Thorough characterization could lead to improved interpretation of in vivo responses, which could clarify nanoparticle properties that result in favorable in vivo outcomes whilst exposing nanoparticle-specific weaknesses. Only then will researchers successfully identify nanoparticles capable of delivering life-saving therapeutics across the blood-brain barrier.



Journal of Controlled Release;296, pp. 202-224




peer-reviewed The full text of this article will not be available until the embargo expires on the 18/01/2020.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Controlled Release. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Controlled Release, 2019, 296, pp. 202-224,



Also affiliated with

  • Bernal Institute
  • Health Research Institute (HRI)
  • Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre

Department or School

  • Biological Sciences
  • School of Engineering

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