"These CNPs don't kill cells so they are not lethal, but they do affect cells, and in this case it's an adverse effect," said corresponding and senior author Frank Witzmann, Ph.D., professor of cellular and integrative physiology and of biochemistry and molecular biology at the IU School of Medicine and adjunct professor of biology at the School of Science.
Biological barriers are very important to human health. The most well understood is the skin, but there are many others. "The human body needs intact barriers, whether it be skin, airway linings, gut walls or the kidney cells we looked at in this study. We need to gain a better understanding of how CNPs modify and change characteristics of barriers as these tiny particles become more common in the air we breathe," said Witzmann.
The two researchers note that these incredibly strong particles, visible only under an electron microscope, perform useful functions including roles in drug delivery and are responsible for many advances in electronics such as the impressive colors seen on plasma televisions and computer monitors. What they worry about is when CNPs enter the air and the environment and eventually the human body from inappropriate disposal or from manufacture of products containing the particles.
This study is part of the team's larger body of work, which looks at the effect of CNPs on barriers throughout the body including those of the airways and large intestine.
"At this point, we know that CNPs have many beneficial qualities, but also pose potential risks. These particles are so small that when they get into various organs or systems they can bind to many things. We need to further study what they look like in various parts of the body, how they affect protein expression, as well as what they do when they cross a barrier or are excreted," said Witzmann.
"Studying the cellu
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Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science