Assessing nanotoxicity in cells in vitro

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Abstract

Nanomaterials are commonly defined as particles or fibers of less than 1 µm in diameter. For these reasons, they may be respirable in humans and have the potential, based upon their geometry, composition, size, and transport or durability in the body, to cause adverse effects on human health, especially if they are inhaled at high concentrations. Rodent inhalation models to predict the toxicity and pathogenicity of nanomaterials are prohibitive in terms of time and expense. For these reasons, a panel of in vitro assays is described below. These include cell culture assays for cytotoxicity (altered metabolism, decreased growth, lytic or apoptotic cell death), proliferation, genotoxicity, and altered gene expression. The choice of cell type for these assays may be dictated by the procedure or endpoint selected. Most of these assays have been standardized in our laboratory using pathogenic minerals (asbestos and silica) and non-pathogenic particles (fine titanium dioxide or glass beads) as negative controls. The results of these in vitro assays should predict whether testing of selected nanomaterials should be pursued in animal inhalation models that simulate physiologic exposure to inhaled nanomaterials. Conversely, intrathoracic or intrapleural injection of nanomaterials into rodents can be misleading because they bypass normal clearance mechanisms, and non-pathogenic fibers and particles can test positively in these assays. WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2010 2 219–231

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