Biomedical Microdevices

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 321–328

Zeta potential: a surface electrical characteristic to probe the interaction of nanoparticles with normal and cancer human breast epithelial cells


  • Yu Zhang
    • Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of California at Riverside
  • Mo Yang
    • Department of Health Technology and InformaticsHong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Nathaniel G. Portney
    • Department of BioengineeringUniversity of California at Riverside
  • Daxiang Cui
    • Department of Bio-Nano Science & EngineeringShanghai JiaoTong University
  • Gurer Budak
    • Gurer Budak Faculty of Medicine, Nanomedicine Research LaboratoryGazi University
  • Ekmel Ozbay
    • Nanotechnology Research Center, Department of Physics and Department of Electrical EngineeringBilkent University
  • Mihrimah Ozkan
    • Department of Electrical EngineeringUniversity of California at Riverside
    • Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of California at Riverside

DOI: 10.1007/s10544-007-9139-2

Cite this article as:
Zhang, Y., Yang, M., Portney, N.G. et al. Biomed Microdevices (2008) 10: 321. doi:10.1007/s10544-007-9139-2


We demonstrate the use of surface Zeta potential measurements as a new tool to investigate the interactions of iron oxide nanoparticles and cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) nanoparticles with human normal breast epithelial cells (MCF10A) and cancer breast epithelial cells (MCF7) respectively. A substantial understanding in the interaction of nanoparticles with normal and cancer cells in vitro will enable the capabilities of improving diagnostic and treatment methods in cancer research, such as imaging and targeted drug delivery. A theoretical Zeta potential model is first established to show the effects of binding process and internalization process during the nanoparticle uptake by cells and the possible trends of Zeta potential change is predicted for different cell endocytosis capacities. The corresponding changes of total surface charge of cells in the form of Zeta potential measurements were then reported after incubated respectively with iron oxide nanoparticles and CPMV nanoparticles. As observed, after MCF7 and MCF10A cells were incubated respectively with two types of nanoparticles, the significant differences in their surface charge change indicate the potential role of Zeta potential as a valuable biological signature in studying the cellular interaction of nanoparticles, as well as specific cell functionality.


Zeta potentialNormal breast cellsCancer breast cellsSurface chargeIron oxide nanoparticlesCPMV nanoparticlesCell endocytosis

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007