An analytical workflow for dynamic characterization and quantification of metal-bearing nanomaterials in biological matrices

Fazel Abdolahpur Monikh, Zhiling Guo, Peng Zhang, Martina G Vijver, Iseult Lynch, Eugenia Valsami-Jones, Willie J G M Peijnenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To assess the safety of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) and to evaluate and improve ENMs' targeting ability for medical application, it is necessary to analyze the fate of these materials in biological media. This protocol presents a workflow that allows researchers to determine, characterize and quantify metal-bearing ENMs (M-ENMs) in biological tissues and cells and quantify their dynamic behavior at trace-level concentrations. Sample preparation methods to enable analysis of M-ENMs in a single cell, a cell layer, tissue, organ and physiological media (e.g., blood, gut content, hemolymph) of different (micro)organisms, e.g., bacteria, animals and plants are presented. The samples are then evaluated using fit-for-purpose analytical techniques e.g., single-cell inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, single-particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and synchrotron X-ray absorption fine structure, providing a protocol that allows comprehensive characterization and quantification of M-ENMs in biological matrices. Unlike previous methods, the protocol uses no fluorescent dyes or radiolabels to trace M-ENMs in biota and enables analysis of most M-ENMs at cellular, tissue and organism levels. The protocols can be applied by a wide variety of users depending on the intended purpose of the application, e.g., to correlate toxicity with a specific particle form, or to understand the absorption, distribution and excretion of M-ENMs. The results facilitate an understanding of the biological fate of M-ENMs and their dynamic behavior in biota. Performing the protocol may take 7-30 d, depending on which combination of methods is applied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1926-1952
Number of pages27
JournalNature protocols
Issue number9
Early online date29 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has received financial support from the UEF Water research program, which is jointly funded by the Saastamoinen Foundation, the Wihuri Foundation and the Olvi Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Springer Nature Limited.


Dive into the research topics of 'An analytical workflow for dynamic characterization and quantification of metal-bearing nanomaterials in biological matrices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this