Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/13/2018

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

First Advisor

Vicki H. Grassian

Second Advisor

Jennifer Fiegel


Nanoparticles are currently used in a wide range of applications including industrially processes, consumer products, and as drug delivery vehicles. The potential toxicity of these nanoparticles in living organisms is concerning due to their ever-expanding applications and accumulation in the environment. The effects of properties of the human body on the potential harmful nature of these nanoparticles must be understood in order to ensure safety in workplaces and at-home products.

In this thesis, the interactions between nanoparticles and the most abundant blood protein, serum albumin, were investigated. The effects of changing the aqueous environment was investigated over a range of different pH values and with different ionic salts dissolved in water. The effects of changing the nanoparticle substrate were investigated to determine if different nanoparticles affect proteins differently. Finally, the effects of changing the concentration of nanoparticles and the presence of protein were investigated in a model lung cell line in vitro.

The studies over different pH values revealed that serum albumin was able to adsorb to the silica nanoparticle surface, and retained its secondary structure both as a function of pH and adsorption in a 2-hour time frame. However, adsorption was greater on the titanium dioxide nanoparticle surface and the protein lost secondary structure at acidic pH (pH 2.0). Studies with different ionic salts revealed a possible correlation between BSA adsorption and nanoparticle aggregation in that the attractive interactions between nanoparticles were least when the least amount of protein was adsorbed. To the nanoparticle surface. In vitro studies with A549 human adenocarcinoma lung cells were inconclusive in determining the potential toxicity of these nanoparticles, but preliminary results suggested that the addition of protein to the system decreased toxicity compared with nanoparticles alone. This research aims to inform the field of nanotechnology to investigate the safety and efficacy of nanoparticles before they reach the consumer.


bovine serum albumin, nano-bio interactions, nanoparticles


xiii, 77 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 68-77).


Copyright © 2017 Brittany Estelle Givens