Nanoparticles (NP) are highly applicable in a variety of technological and biomedical fields because of their unique physicochemical properties. The increased development and utilization of NP has amplified human exposure and raised concerns regarding their potential to generate toxicity. The biological impacts of NP exposures have been shown to be dependent on aerodynamic size, chemical composition, and the route of exposure (oral, dermal, intravenous, and inhalation), while recent research has demonstrated the cardiovascular (CV) system as an important site of toxicity. Proposed mechanisms responsible for these effects include inflammation, oxidative stress, autonomic dysregulation, and direct interactions of NP with CV cells. Specifically, NP have been shown to impact vascular endothelial cell (EC) integrity, which may disrupt the dynamic endothelial regulation of vascular tone, possibly altering systemic vascular resistance and impairing the appropriate distribution of blood flow throughout the circulation. Cardiac consequences of NP-induced toxicity include disruption of heart rate and electrical activity via catecholamine release, increased susceptibility to ischemia/reperfusion injury, and modified baroreceptor control of cardiac function. These and other CV outcomes likely contribute to adverse health effects promoting myocardial infarction, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, and thrombosis. This review will assess the current knowledge regarding the principle sites of CV toxicity following NP exposure. Furthermore, we will propose mechanisms contributing to altered CV function and hypothesize possible outcomes resulting in decrements in human health. WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2012, 4:691–702. doi: 10.1002/wnan.1194
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