at the University of Edinburgh are to study the effects
of nanoparticles on the liver. In a UK first, the
scientists will assess whether nanoparticles –already
found in pollution from traffic exhaust, but also
used in making household goods such as paint, sunblock,
food, cosmetics and clothes– can cause damage to
the cells of the liver.
Nanoparticles are atoms and molecules 80,000 times
smaller than the width of a human hair, with various
properties according to their composition, which
explains their widespread usage. Airborne nanoparticles
present in traffic exhaust are already known to enter
the lungs and affect human health.
Scientist Dr Celine Filippi explains: "In experiments
carried out elsewhere to mimic environmental exposure,
nanoparticles delivered into the lungs crossed the
lung barrier and entered the blood. Particles in
the blood can reach the liver, amongst other organs.
We also know that nanoparticles directly injected
into the blood for medical purposes are also likely
to end up in the liver.
"We don't yet know if the nanoparticles are safely
eliminated from the liver by specialised cells or
whether these extremely small particles can enter
the liver cells and disrupt their normal functioning.
Our research will try to establish whether nanoparticles,
which are set to be used increasingly in industry
and the manufacture of household goods, can damage
the cells of the liver."
Professor Ken Donaldson, Professor of Respiratory
Toxicology at the University of Edinburgh said: "We
are looking at the new idea that the liver is a target
for nanoparticles, and a lot more work needs to be
done to assess the levels and impact of nanoparticles
reaching the liver."
Contact: Linda Menzies
University of Edinburgh