The magnetic moment and anisotropy of magnetite nanoparticles can be optimised by doping with transition metal cations, enabling their properties to be tuned for different biomedical applications. In this study, we assessed the suitability of bacterially synthesized zinc- and cobalt-doped magnetite nanoparticles for biomedical applications. To do this we measured cellular viability and activity in primary human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells and human osteosarcoma-derived cells. Using AC susceptibility we studied doping induced changes in the magnetic response of the nanoparticles both as stable aqueous suspensions and when associated with cells. Our findings show that the magnetic response of the particles was altered after cellular interaction with a reduction in their mobility. In particular, the strongest AC susceptibility signal measured in vitro was from cells containing high-moment zinc-doped particles, whilst no signal was observed in cells containing the high-anisotropy cobalt-doped particles. For both particle types we found that the moderate dopant levels required for optimum magnetic properties did not alter their cytotoxicity or affect osteogenic differentiation of the stem cells. Thus, despite the known cytotoxicity of cobalt and zinc ions, these results suggest that iron oxide nanoparticles can be doped to sufficiently tailor their magnetic properties without compromising cellular biocompatibility.
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