Have Cell Membrane Coated NPs Been Wrongly Understood?

Adverse staining is usually used to review the attribute core-shell construction of cell membrane (CM)-coated polymeric nanoparticles (NPs) through transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Nonetheless, destructive staining can develop artifacts that pose difficulties for detecting the precise NP construction.

Have Cell Membrane Coated Nanoparticles Been Wrongly Understood?

Research: Appropriate identification of the core-shell construction of cell membrane-coated polymeric nanoparticles. Picture Credit score: Vink Fan/Shutterstock.com

Just lately, scientists analyzed a number of polymeric core nanoparticles utilizing the fluorescence quenching methodology and demonstrated that a number of the noticed core-shell constructions had been really artifacts created by the staining course of. This examine is offered in Chemistry A European Journal.

The Position of Biomimetic Nanoparticles

Biomimetic nanoparticles containing useful CM coatings are successfully utilized in therapeutics because it provides fascinating organic properties. Though a number of NPs, similar to liposomes, iron oxide, gold, porous silica, and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), had been screened and handled with CM, solely poly (lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) obtained approval from the US Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) for the manufacturing of CM-coated NPs.

Among the attribute options of PLGA are superior biodegradability, glorious drug loading capability, and vital biocompatibility.

PLGA NPs (polymeric nanoparticle) have been utilized in a number of therapeutics, similar to purple blood CM-coated anisotropic PLGA NPs used for cleansing, platelet membrane-coated PLGA NPs designed to enhance most cancers immunotherapy, and genetically engineered CM- camouflaged PLGA NPs for concentrating on irritation.

Adverse Staining and Growth of Core-Shell Nanostructures

When CM supplies and core NPs are uncovered to ultrasonic vitality or different disrupting forces, they’re instantly reworked into an built-in core-shell nanostructure. This idea emerged from TEM photographs of CM-coated PLGA (CM-PLGA) NPs which can be stained negatively. 

Adverse staining is related to utilizing an aqueous answer of electron scattering heavy-metal salts, similar to phosphotungstic acid and uranyl acetate. These salts are deposited on the dried pattern, which reinforces its visualization. The destructive straining methodology helps protect the pattern by forming a specimen mildew. Nonetheless, some destructive staining strategies (e.g., air-drying destructive staining) are inclined to develop artifacts which can be usually misinterpreted throughout TEM picture evaluation. 

Correct Detection of CM-PLGA NPs

Usually, strategies similar to sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), dynamic gentle scattering (DLS), and fluorescence co-localization are used to detect the presence of CMs on PLGA NPs. Scientists have just lately sought to investigate if polymeric NPs are actually coated with CM, as earlier TEM photographs with destructive staining indicated. 

In-depth analysis revealed that the core-shell nanostructure, visualized in TEM evaluation of negatively stained polymeric NPs, that are generally used as a core for CM coating, e.g., poly(caprolactone) (PCL), PLGA, and methyl ether-block-PLGA (PEG-PLGA), is an artifact created by the staining method.

The co-fusion of CM and PLGA NPs was clarified utilizing mouse colon carcinoma cells. Confocal laser scanning microscopic photographs confirmed the formation of CM-PLGA NPs. To find out the construction of CM-PLGA NPs, fluorescence quenching method together with TEM evaluation coalesced with Triton X-100 (TX-100) therapy was used. 

Scientists in contrast TEM photographs of PLGA NPs with and with out destructive straining to precisely decide CM coating. Apparently, the uranyl acetate stain revealed that many of the PLGA NPs possessed a core-shell construction. To determine the native state of PLGA NPs, which is often misinterpreted by the TEM imaging method, cryogenic TEM (cryo-TEM) was used, as this methodology is popularly thought of artifact-free. 

Apparently, the cryo-TEM photographs revealed a strong construction of PLGA NPs, which indicated that the assumed core-shell construction of the negatively stained PLGA NP’s TEM picture may very well be an artifact. This artifact is likely to be created throughout the staining and drying course of. Atomic power microscopy (AFM) photographs of PLGA NPs exhibited easy floor and spherical form, which was per field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM) photographs. 

Apparently, the core-shell artifact was noticed utilizing each uranyl acetate and phosphotungstic acid destructive stain, which prompt that core-shell artifacts had been fashioned no matter the kind of destructive stain used. Alterations within the staining timing additionally didn’t impression the thickness of artifacts.


Taken collectively, many of the polymeric NPs, together with PLGA, are likely to falsely seem to have a core-shell construction in TEM evaluation of negatively stained samples. This examine confirmed that the core-shell construction of CM-PLGA NPs recognized in a number of TEM photographs of negatively stained specimens are literally artifacts created by the staining of the unique PLGA NPs and never attributable to CM coating.


Liu, L., et al. (2022) Appropriate identification of the core-shell construction of cell membrane-coated polymeric nanoparticles. Chemistry A European Journal. https://doi.org/10.1002/chem.202200947

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