Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 163, Issue 1–2, pp 184–192 | Cite as

Development of an Analytical Method for Assessment of Silver Nanoparticle Content in Biological Matrices by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry

  • Eric P. Poitras
  • Michael A. Levine
  • James M. Harrington
  • Amal S. Essader
  • Timothy R. Fennell
  • Rodney W. Snyder
  • Sherry L. Black
  • Susan S. Sumner
  • Keith E. LevineEmail author


Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are a broad class of synthetic nanoparticles that are utilized in a wide variety of consumer products as antimicrobial agents. Despite their widespread use, a detailed understanding of their toxicological characteristics and biological and environmental hazards is not available. To support research into the biodistribution and toxicology of AgNPs, it is necessary to develop a suitable method for the assessment of AgNP content in biological samples. Two methods were developed and validated to analyze citrate-coated AgNP content that utilize acid digestion of rodent feces and liver tissue samples, and a third method was developed for the dilution and direct analysis of rodent urine samples. Following sample preparation, the silver content of each sample was determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to quantify the silver and AgNP levels present. Analysis of rat feces matrix yielded analytical recoveries ranging from 82 to 93 %. Liver tissue spiked with a formulation of AgNPs over a range of concentrations yielded analytical recoveries between 88 and 90 %, providing acceptable accuracy results. The analysis of silver in urine samples exhibited recovery values ranging from 80 to 85 % for AgNP formulations and 62–84 % for standard silver ion solutions. All determinations exhibited a high degree of analytical precision. The results obtained here suggest that matrix interference plays a minimal role in AgNP recovery in feces and liver tissue, while the urine matrix can exhibit a significant effect on the determination of silver content.


Silver nanoparticles Bioanalytical Tissue distribution Validation Plasma spectroscopy 



This study was supported, in part, by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (U19 ES019525) and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (1U24DK097193-01). The authors would also like to acknowledge RTI International for providing internal funds for the study. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Ethical Statement

The samples analyzed in this study were collected from animals that were maintained under RTI IACUC guidelines, and all protocols were performed with IACUC review and approval.

Conflict of Interest

The authors acknowledge that there are no financial conflicts of interest in this report.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric P. Poitras
    • 1
  • Michael A. Levine
    • 1
  • James M. Harrington
    • 1
  • Amal S. Essader
    • 1
  • Timothy R. Fennell
    • 2
  • Rodney W. Snyder
    • 2
  • Sherry L. Black
    • 2
  • Susan S. Sumner
    • 2
  • Keith E. Levine
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Trace Inorganics Department, Discovery Science TechnologyRTI InternationalResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  2. 2.Systems and Translational Sciences, Discovery Sciences and TechnologyRTI InternationalResearch Triangle ParkUSA

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