"Different dose metrics give different impressions of which particles are more toxic," he said.
To find out, Thrall and his colleagues at PNNL measured the dose at which the particles caused a biological response. The biological response was either death of the cell, or a change in which genes the cell turned on and off. They found that when calculating doses by particle number or mass, the amount needed to generate a biological response was all over the map.
They found that the best way to pinpoint how toxic the particles are to cells was to calculate the dose based on the total surface area of the nanomaterial. Only when they considered the surface area of the dose could they predict the biological response.
And the biological response, they found, was very similar regardless of the size of the nanoparticles. Inside cells, some genes responded to nanoparticles by ramping up or down. More than 76 percent of these genes behaved the same for all nanoparticle sizes tested. This indicated to the researchers that, for these genes, the nanoparticles didn't pick up weird chemical properties as they shrunk in size.
"The big fear is that you'd see unique biological pathways being affected when you get down to the nanoscale. For the most part, we didn't see that," said Thrall.
However, the team found some genes for which size did matter. A handful of genes, these fell into two categories: smaller particles appeared to affect genes that might be involved in inflammation. The larger particles appeared to affect genes that transport positively charged atoms into cells. This latter result could be due to metals contaminating the preparation of the larger particles, Thrall suggested.
|Contact: Mary Beckman|
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory