Iron oxide nanoparticles: Diagnostic, therapeutic and theranostic applications.


Department of Nanomedicine and Theranostics, Institute for Experimental Molecular Imaging, RWTH Aachen University Clinic, Aachen, Germany; Department of Pharmaceutics, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands; Department of Targeted Therapeutics, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands. Electronic address: [Email]


Many different iron oxide nanoparticles have been evaluated over the years, for a wide variety of biomedical applications. We here summarize the synthesis, surface functionalization and characterization of iron oxide nanoparticles, as well as their (pre-) clinical use in diagnostic, therapeutic and theranostic settings. Diagnostic applications include liver, lymph node, inflammation and vascular imaging, employing mostly magnetic resonance imaging but recently also magnetic particle imaging. Therapeutic applications encompass iron supplementation in anemia and advanced cancer treatments, such as modulation of macrophage polarization, magnetic fluid hyperthermia and magnetic drug targeting. Because of their properties, iron oxide nanoparticles are particularly useful for theranostic purposes. Examples of such setups, in which diagnosis and therapy are intimately combined and in which iron oxide nanoparticles are used, are image-guided drug delivery, image-guided and microbubble-mediated opening of the blood-brain barrier, and theranostic tissue engineering. Together, these directions highlight the versatility and the broad applicability of iron oxide nanoparticles, and indicate the integration in future medical practice of multiple iron oxide nanoparticle-based materials.