Use of a particle exposure system to investigate the inflammation and toxicity of nanoparticles in an epithelial airway barrier model

There is evidence that the inhalation of particulate matter cause increased pulmonary morbidity and mortality. Recent studies indicate a specific toxicological role of nanoparticles (<0.1μm), coming from combustion engines and from other sources (nanotechnology). There is hardly any information available on their effect on cells, tissues and organs. With an in vitro model of the epithelial airway wall we will develop a particle exposure system that allows the comparison of the inflammatory and toxic potential of nanoparticles.
With this in vitro approach we can contribute to a better understanding of the
potential risk of nanoparticles and replace animal experiments.

Aim of the project
A number of epidemiological studies show that adverse health effects, including increased pulmonary and cardiovascular mortality, are caused by particulate matter (Pope et al., 1995; Schulz et al., 2005). Of particular interest are nanoparticles (<0.1μm in diameter), which according to recent epidemiologic studies are particularly toxic (Peters et al., 1997).
Today there is hardly any information available on the effect of nanoparticles on cells, tissues and organs. However, it is known that, after inhalation, they may be translocated to different organs by vascular transportation (Oberdörster et al., 2004). Animal studies support the notion that particles cause pulmonary inflammation, blood changes, and alterations of specific cardiac endpoints.

Barbara M. Rothen-Rutishauser, University of Berne, Switzerland