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Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Science in Biology



Major Advisor

Denise Wingett, Ph.D.


ZnO nanoparticles have previously been shown to exhibit selective cytotoxicity against certain types of cancerous cells, suggesting their potential use in biomedical applications. In this study we investigate the effect of ZnO nanoparticle electrostatic properties on their differential cytotoxicity in cancerous and primary T cells. Our results show that poly (acrylic acid) capped, negatively charged ZnO nanoparticles are significantly more toxic compared to uncapped, positively charged nanoparticles of identical size and composition. Differences in cytotoxicity correlate with nanoparticle hydrodynamic size, aggregation, and dissolution. Reactive oxygen species are also shown to be involved in nanoparticle cytotoxicity. In addition, we examine the cytotoxic effect of differently charged ZnO nanoparticles to cancerous T cells under concurrent exposure with non-toxic CeO2 nanoparticles. Our results suggest that CeO2 nanoparticles can decrease negatively charged ZnO nanoparticle induced cytotoxicity under concurrent exposure. These results demonstrate the importance of surface electrostatic properties on nanoparticle toxicity and also the potential clinical utility of engineering nanoparticles with desired properties by modulating their surface characteristics.