Small, 2020, 16(48): 2004029

Intracerebral injection of graphene oxide nanosheets mitigates microglial activation without inducing acute neurotoxicity: a pilot comparison to other nanomaterials

Corinne Portioli, Cyrill Bussy*, Mariarosa Mazza, Neus Lozano, Dhifaf A. Jasim, Maurizio Prato, Alberto Bianco, Marina Bentivoglio, Kostas Kostarelos*

Carbon-based nanomaterials (CNMs) are being explored for neurological applications. However, systematic in vivo studies investigating the effects of CNM nanocarriers in the brain and how brain cells respond to such nanomaterials are scarce. To address this, functionalized multiwalled carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide (GO) sheets are injected in mice brain and compared with charged liposomes. The induction of acute neuroinflammatory and neurotoxic effects locally and in brain structures distant from the injection site are assessed up to 1 week postadministration. While significant neuronal cell loss and sustained microglial cell activation are observed after injection of cationic liposomes, none of the tested CNMs induces either neurodegeneration or microglial activation. Among the candidate nanocarriers tested, GO sheets appear to elicit the least deleterious neuroinflammatory profile. At molecular level, GO induces moderate activation of proinflammatory markers compared to vehicle control. At histological level, brain response to GO is lower than after vehicle control injection, suggesting some capacity for GO to reduce the impact of stereotactic injection on brain. While these findings are encouraging and valuable in the selection and design of nanomaterial-based brain delivery systems, they warrant further investigations to better understand the mechanisms underlying GO immunomodulatory properties in brain.