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UA Little Rock nanotechnology researchers discover new method to quantify graphene at the cellular level

Dr. Zeid Nima

An article written by University of Arkansas at Little Rock researchers, students, and collaborators has been accepted for publication into “Nanoscale,” a peer-reviewed scientific journal, as well as included in the 2018 Nanoscale HOT Article Collection. 

The article, “Quantification of cellular associated graphene and induced surface receptor responses,” presents a new, combination-based way to quantify and analyze the effect of graphene at the single cell level.

The first author, Dr. Zeid A. Nima, is a postdoctoral research fellow at the UA Little Rock Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences (CINS). He received his doctorate in applied chemistry from UA Little Rock in 2014 and joined CINS in 2015.

The paper’s additional authors include current and past UA Little Rock students and staff from CINS and the Department of Chemistry, as well as researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and the National Center for Toxicological Research.

Nima notes that graphene, a nanomaterial, is being used more often in biomedical research and other scientific applications involving humans. However, scientists have generally lacked a way to quantify graphene at the cellular level and assess how cells respond to it. This inability has limited the safe use of graphene in real-world applications.

For the past three years, Nima and his collaborators have been developing a solution to the graphene quantification problem. Their new publication represents the result of this work – a method that combines multimodal Raman and photoacoustic/photothermal spectroscopy (UAMS) with a quartz crystal microbalance technique to quantify the amount of graphene in a single cell.

“Graphene has been used in nanomedicine and many biological applications, but there have always been challenges in quantifying how much graphene associates with an individual cell,” Nima explained.

Furthermore, Dr. Bao Vang-Dings, the paper’s second author, studied how human immune cells respond to graphene, based on the amount of and time that cells are exposed to the nanomaterial.

“This is important so that we can understand how nanomaterials interact on the cellular level and assess their toxicity to human cells,” Nima said. “In the future, this may impact how graphene can be used in applications that affect human health.”

To read the full article, please visit the “Nanoscale” website.


The research discussed in this article was supported in part by the following sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration award HHSF223201210189C (administered through the Arkansas Research Alliance). The views presented in this paper are not necessarily those of the U.S. FDA.

Partial funding for this work was also provided by the Center for Advanced Surface Engineering, under the National Science Foundation grant IIA-1457888 and the Arkansas Asset III EPSCoR Program.