Mesoporous silica particles (MSP) are a new development in nanotechnology. Covalent modification of the surface of the silica is possible both on the internal pore and on the external particle surface. It allows the design of functional nanostructured materials with properties of organic, biological and inorganic components. Research and development are ongoing on the MSP, which have applications in catalysis, drug delivery and imaging. The most recent and interesting advancements in size, morphology control and surface functionalization of MSP have enhanced the biocompatibility of these materials with high surface areas and pore volumes. In the last 5 years several reports have demonstrated that MSP can be efficiently internalized using in vitro and animal models. The functionalization of MSP with organic moieties or other nanostructures brings controlled release and molecular recognition capabilities to these mesoporous materials for drug/gene delivery and sensing applications, respectively. Herein, we review recent research progress on the design of functional MSP materials with various mechanisms of targeting and controlled release.