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In-vitro cell exposure studies for the assessment of nanoparticle toxicity in the lung - A dialogue between aerosol science and biology

In-vitro cell exposure studies for the assessment of nanoparticle toxicity in the lung - A dialogue between aerosol science and biology

H.-R. Paur, R. R. Cassee, J. Teeguarden, H. Fissan, S. Diabate, M. Aufderheide, W. G. Kreyling, O. Hänninen, G. Kasper, M. Riediker, B. Rothen-Rutishauser, O. Schmid


Journal of Aerosol Science, 2011, 42, 668-692

The introduction of engineered nanostructured materials into a rapidly increasing number of industrial and consumer products will result in enhanced exposure to engineered nanoparticles. Workplace exposure has been identified as the most likely source of uncontrolled inhalation of engineered aerosolized nanoparticles, but release of engineered nanoparticles may occur at any stage of the lifecycle of (consumer) products. The dynamic development of nanomaterials with possibly unknown toxicological effects poses a challenge for the assessment of nanoparticle induced toxicity and safety.
In this consensus document from a workshop on in-vitro cell systems for nanoparticle toxicity testing1 an overview is given of the main issues concerning exposure to airborne nanoparticles, lung physiology, biological mechanisms of (adverse) action, in-vitro cell exposure systems, realistic tissue doses, risk assessment and social aspects of nanotechnology. The workshop participants recognized the large potential of in-vitro cell exposure systems for reliable, high-throughput screening of nanoparticle toxicity. For the investigation of lung toxicity, a strong preference was expressed for air-liquid interface (ALI) cell exposure systems (rather than submerged cell exposure systems) as they more closely resemble in-vivo conditions in the lungs and they allow for unaltered and dosimetrically accurate delivery of aerosolized nanoparticles to the cells. An important aspect, which is frequently overlooked, is the comparison of typically used in-vitro dose levels with realistic in-vivo nanoparticle doses in the lung. If we consider average ambient urban exposure and occupational exposure at 5mg/m3 (maximum level allowed by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)) as the boundaries of human exposure, the corresponding upper-limit range of nanoparticle flux delivered to the lung tissue is 3 x 10-5-5 x 10-3 µg/h/cm2 of lung tissue and 2– 300 particles/h/(epithelial) cell. This range can be easily matched and even exceeded by almost all currently available cell exposure systems.
The consensus statement includes a set of recommendations for conducting in-vitro cell exposure studies with pulmonary cell systems and identifies urgent needs for future development. As these issues are crucial for the introduction of safe nanomaterials into the marketplace and the living environment, they deserve more attention and more interaction between biologists and aerosol scientists. The members of the workshop believe that further advances in in-vitro cell exposure studies would be greatly facilitated by a more active role of the aerosol scientists. The technical know-how for developing and running ALI in-vitro exposure systems is available in the aerosol community and at the same time biologists/toxicologists are required for proper assessment of the biological impact of nanoparticles.