A new study led by researchers at Yonsei University College of Medicine in Korea recently revealed that silica nanoparticles can induce airway inflammation in mice. The study was published in the journal Experimental and Molecular Medicine and is entitled “Acute exposure to silica nanoparticles aggravate airway inflammation: different effects according to surface characteristics.”
Nanotechnology is defined by the employment of nanoparticles at supramolecular levels. This technology has led to significant advances in the medical field, namely on drug development and targeted delivery. The use of therapeutic approaches based on nanoparticles is increasing; however, questions regarding their safety need to be properly addressed as some toxicity issues have been reported, namely at the level of the immune system and as a cause of inflammation in several tissues and organs including the lungs. Exposure to nanoparticles through inhalation has been linked to respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis. Therefore, it is important to determine the concentration, size and surface pattern of the nanoparticles that ensure a safe application.
Silica nanoparticles (SNPs) in particular are widely used without a proper assessment of their potential toxicity. Researchers have now investigated the impact of acute exposure to SNPs on the airways of mice models with or without asthma [induced by ovalbumin (OVA) sensitization]. The team also analyzed different SNPs surface patterns, namely spherical SNPs (S-SNPs), mesoporous SNPs (M-SNPs) and PEGylated SNPs (P-SNPs). The animals were exposed intranasally to SNPs for three consecutive days. In the OVA/SNPs asthma model, the animals were sensitized two times via the peritoneal route with OVA.
The team found that exposure to SNPs, especially S-SNPs, significantly induced airway inflammation and hyper-responsiveness. In the OVA/SNPs mice model, animals exposed to SNPs experienced considerable airway inflammation in comparison to those treated with OVA without SNPs exposure, with the P-SNP type inducing the lowest levels of airway inflammation.
The research team concluded that acute exposure to SNPs in mice models can potentially lead to lung injury due to an increased airway inflammation. This effect is aggravated in asthma mice models. The team reports that P-SNPs seem to be safer than S- or M-SNPs as their use induced the lowest toxicity and airway inflammation, suggesting that P-SNPs might be more suitable for medical applications.