The result of a new study should allay fears that cells and tissues will react unpredictably when exposed to the finest silica nanomaterials in industrial or commercial applications.
Nanotoxicologist Brian Thrall and colleagues at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland (PNNL) found that, mostly, size doesn't matter, by using total surface area as a measure of dose, rather than particle mass or number of particles, and observing how cultured cells responded biologically.
Nanoparticles are materials made up of spherical particles that are on average 100 to 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They are being used in tires, biomedical research, and cosmetics. Researchers are exploring these tiny spheres because their physical and chemical properties at that size offer advantages that standard materials don't, such as being able to float through blood vessels to deliver drugs.
But whether these materials are safe for human consumption is not yet clear. Previous work suggested in some cases, nanoparticles become more toxic to cells the smaller the particles get.
Thrall and his colleagues at PNNL found that the best way to pinpoint how toxic the particles are to cells was to calculate the dose based on the total surface area of the nanomaterial. Only when they considered the surface area of the dose could they predict the biological response.
And the biological response, they found, was very similar regardless of the size of the nanoparticles.
"The big fear is that you'd see unique biological pathways being affected when you get down to the nanoscale. For the most part, we didn't see that," said Thrall.
COMPAMED.de; Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory