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Keywords:

  • Classification;
  • membrane damage;
  • metal oxide nanoparticles;
  • nanotoxicology;
  • predictive models

With the increasing use of nanomaterials incorporated into consumer products, there is a need for developing approaches to establish “quantitative structure-activity relationships” (QSARs). These relationships could be used to predict various biological responses after exposure to nanomaterials for the purposes of risk analysis. This risk analysis is applicable to manufacturers of nanomaterials in an effort to determine potential hazards. Because metal oxide materials are some of the most widely applicable and studied nanoparticle types for incorporation into cosmetics, food packaging, and paints and coatings, we focused on comparing different approaches for establishing QSARs for this class of materials. Metal oxide nanoparticles are believed, by some, to cause alterations in cellular function due to their size and/or surface area. Others have said that these nanomaterials, because of the oxidized state of the metal, do not induce stress in biological tests systems. This controversy highlights the need to systematically develop structure-activity relationships (i.e., the relationship between physicochemical features to the cellular responses) and tools for predicting potential biological effects after a metal oxide nanomaterial exposure. Here, we attempt to identify a set of properties of two specific metal oxide nanomaterials—TiO2 and ZnO—that could be used to characterize and predict the induced cellular membrane damage of immortalized human lung epithelial cells. We adopt a mathematical modeling approach that uses the engineered nanomaterial size characterized as a dry nanopowder and the nanomaterial behavior in ultrapure water, phosphate buffer, and cell culture media to predict nanomaterial-induced cellular membrane damage (via lactate dehydrogenase release). Results of these studies provide insights on how engineered nanomaterial features influence cellular responses and thereby outline possible approaches for developing and applying predictive computational models for biological responses caused by exposure to nanomaterials.