Novel engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are being developed to enhance therapy. The physicochemical properties of ENMs can be manipulated to control/direct biodistribution and target delivery, but these alterations also have implications for toxicity. It is well known that size plays a significant role in determining ENM effects since simply nanosizing a safe bulk material can render it toxic. However, charge, shape, rigidity, and surface modifications also have a significant influence on the biodistribution and toxicity of nanoscale drug delivery systems (NDDSs). In this review, NDDSs are considered in terms of platform technologies, materials, and physical properties that impart their pharmaceutical and toxicological effects. Moving forward, the development of safe and effective nanomedicines requires standardized protocols for determining the physical characteristics of ENMs as well as assessing their potential long-term toxicity. When such protocols are established, the remarkable promise of nanomedicine to improve the diagnosis and treatment of human disease can be fulfilled.
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