New insights into the intra- and intercellular trafficking of drug delivery particles challenges the dogma of particles as static intracellular depots for sustained drug release. Recent discoveries in the cell-to-cell transfer of cellular constituents, including proteins, organelles, and microparticles sheds light on new ways to propagate signals and therapeutics. While beneficial for the dispersion of therapeutics at sites of pathologies, propagation of biological entities advancing disease states is less desirable. Mechanisms are presented for the transfer of porous silicon microparticles between cells. Direct cell-to-cell transfer of microparticles by means of membrane adhesion or using membrane extensions known as tunneling nanotubes is presented. Cellular relays, or shuttle cells, are also shown to mediate the transfer of microparticles between cells. These microparticle-transfer events appear to be stimulated by environmental cues, introducing a new paradigm of environmentally triggered propagation of cellular signals and rapid dispersion of particle-delivered therapeutics. The opportunity to use microparticles to study cellular transfer events and biological triggers that induce these events may aid in the discovery of therapeutics that limit the spread of disease.
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