Transition metal oxide nanoparticles effect lung cells increasing cytotoxicity

Potential risks of nanoparticles on lungs

7:03 AM, 1st February 2014
Latest research on risks of  nanoparticles
Yue-Wern Huang, Professor, Biological Sciences, Missouri University of Science and Technology.

MISSOURI, US: Nanoparticles find a wide range of applications - electronics, medicine, cosmetics, even environmental clean-ups. More than 2,800 commercially available applications are now based on nanoparticles, and by 2017, the field is expected to bring in nearly $50 billion worldwide. But this influx of nanotechnology is not without risks, said researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

“There is an urgent need to investigate the potential impact of nanoparticles on health and the environment,” said Yue-Wern Huang, Professor, of biological sciences, Missouri S&T.

Huang and his colleagues have been systematically studying the effects of transition metal oxide nanoparticles on human lung cells. These nanoparticles are used extensively in optical and recording devices, water purification systems, cosmetics and skin care products, and targeted drug delivery, among other applications.

“In their typical coarse powder form, the toxicity of these substances is not dramatic. But as nanoparticles with diametre of only 16-80 nanometre, the situation changes significantly,” said Huang.

The researchers exposed both healthy and cancerous human lung cells to nanoparticles composed of titanium, chromium, manganese, iron, nickel, copper and zinc compounds - transition metal oxides that are on the fourth row of the periodic table. The researchers discovered that the nanoparticles’ toxicity to the cells, or cytotoxicity, increased as they moved right on the periodic table.

“About 80 per cent of the cells died in the presence of nanoparticles of copper oxide and zinc oxide. These nanoparticles penetrated the cells and destroyed their membranes. The toxic effects are related to the nanoparticles’ surface electrical charge and available docking sites,” added Huang.

Huang said that certain nanoparticles released metal ions - called ion dissolution - which also played a significant role in cell death.

Huang is now working on new research that may help reduce nanoparticles’ toxicity and shed light on how nanoparticles interact with cells.

“We are coating toxic zinc oxide nanoparticles with non-toxic nanoparticles to see if zinc oxide’s toxicity can be reduced. We hope this can mitigate toxicity without compromising zinc oxide’s intended applications. We’re also investigating whether nanoparticles inhibit cell division and influence cell cycle,” said Huang.

© Missouri University of Science and Technology News

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