Graphene oxide enhances cellular delivery of hydrophilic small molecules by co-incubation

Andy H. Hung, Robert J. Holbrook, Matthew W. Rotz, Cameron J. Glasscock, Nikhita D. Mansukhani, Keith W. Macrenaris, Lisa M. Manus, Matthew C. Duch, Kevin T. Dam, Mark C. Hersam, Thomas J. Meade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


The delivery of bioactive molecules into cells has broad applications in biology and medicine. Polymer-modified graphene oxide (GO) has recently emerged as a de facto noncovalent vehicle for hydrophobic drugs. Here, we investigate a different approach using native GO to deliver hydrophilic molecules by co-incubation in culture. GO adsorption and delivery were systematically studied with a library of 15 molecules synthesized with Gd(III) labels to enable quantitation. Amines were revealed to be a key chemical group for adsorption, while delivery was shown to be quantitatively predictable by molecular adsorption, GO sedimentation, and GO size. GO co-incubation was shown to enhance delivery by up to 13-fold and allowed for a 100-fold increase in molecular incubation concentration compared to the alternative of nanoconjugation. When tested in the application of Gd(III) cellular MRI, these advantages led to a nearly 10-fold improvement in sensitivity over the state-of-the-art. GO co-incubation is an effective method of cellular delivery that is easily adoptable by researchers across all fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10168-10177
Number of pages10
JournalACS nano
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 28 2014


  • adsorption
  • cell culture
  • delivery vehicle
  • gadolinium
  • graphene oxide
  • sedimentation
  • surface interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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