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Your Environment. Your Health.

Assessing Toxicity of Metal Oxide Nanoparticles

André Nel, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles

By examining the toxicological profile of 29 metal oxide nanoparticles, NIEHS grantees demonstrated that certain types of nanoparticles are more toxic to liver cells, and that different nanoparticles may lead to changes in different types of cells. The study provided a reference grid for toxicity screening of metal oxide nanoparticles, which are among the most abundant engineered nanomaterials produced. They are used in personal care products, clothing, and other consumer goods.

Researchers studied the effects of an array of metal oxide nanoparticle exposures on liver cells, including Kupffer cells, which play a key role in clearing out bacteria and cell debris, and hepatocytes, which primarily perform metabolic and detoxification functions. They found that transition metal oxides and rare earth oxides, two types of redox-active and highly soluble metal oxides, were the most toxic to liver cells. Although exposure to transition metal oxides led to cell death in both cell types, exposure to rare earth oxides only led to cell death in Kupffer cells.

The findings compared the toxicological profiles of an extensive range of metal oxide nanoparticles in Kupffer cells and hepatocytes and demonstrated differences in cell viability and inflammatory responses. According to the authors, these mechanistic considerations could be used to evaluate the safety of metal oxides, including commercial products developed from these materials.

Citation: Mirshafiee V, Sun B, Chang CH, Liao YP, Jiang W, Jiang J, Liu X, Wang X, Xia T, Nel AE. 2018. Toxicological profiling of metal oxide nanoparticles in liver context reveals pyroptosis in Kupffer cells and macrophages versus apoptosis in hepatocytes. ACS Nano 12(4):3836–3852.

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