Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nickel nanoparticles may contribute to lung cancer

24.08.2011
All the excitement about nanotechnology comes down to this: Structures of materials at the scale of billionths of a meter take on unusual properties.

Technologists often focus on the happier among these newfound capabilities, but new research by an interdisciplinary team of scientists at Brown University finds that nanoparticles of nickel activate a cellular pathway that contributes to cancer in human lung cells.

"Nanotechnology has tremendous potential and promise for many applications," said Agnes Kane, chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. "But the lesson is that we have to learn to be able to design them more intelligently and, if we recognize the potential hazards, to take adequate precautions."

Kane is the senior author of the study published in advance online this month in the journal Toxicological Sciences.

Nickel nanoparticles had already been shown to be harmful, but not in terms of cancer. Kane and her team of pathologists, engineers and chemists found evidence that ions on the surface of the particles are released inside human epithelial lung cells to jumpstart a pathway called HIF-1 alpha. Normally the pathway helps trigger genes that support a cell in times of low oxygen supply, a problem called hypoxia, but it is also known to encourage tumor cell growth.

"Nickel exploits this pathway, in that it tricks the cell into thinking there's hypoxia but it's really a nickel ion that activates this pathway," said Kane, whose work is supported by a National Institues of Health Superfund Research Program Grant. "By activating this pathway it may give premalignant tumor cells a head start."

Size matters

The research team, led by postdoctoral research associate and first author Jodie Pietruska, exposed human lung cells to nanoscale particles of metallic nickel and nickel oxide, and larger microscale particles of metallic nickel. A key finding is that while the smaller particles set off the HIF-1 alpha pathway, the larger metallic nickel particles proved much less problematic.

In other words, getting down to the nanoscale made the metallic nickel particles more harmful and potentially cancer-causing. Kane said the reason might be that for the same amount of metal by mass, nanoscale particles expose much more surface area and that makes them much more chemically reactive than microscale particles.

Another important result from the work is data showing a big difference in how nickel nanoparticles and nickel oxide nanoparticles react with cells, Pietruska said. The nickel oxide particles are so lethal that the cells exposed to them died quickly, leaving no opportunity for cancer to develop. Metallic nickel particles, on the other hand, were less likely to kill the cells. That could allow the hypoxia pathway to lead to the cell becoming cancerous.

"What is concerning is the metallic nickel nanoparticles caused sustained activation but they were less cytotoxic," Pietruska said. "Obviously a dead cell can't be transformed."

Although Kane said the findings should raise clear concerns about handling nickel nanoparticles, for instance to prevent airborne exposure to them in manufacturing, they are not all that's needed to cause cancer. Cancer typically depends on a number of unfortunate changes, Kane said. Also, she said, the study looked at the short-term effects of nickel nanoparticle exposure in cells in a lab, rather than over the long term in a whole organism.

Still, in her lab Kane employs significant safeguards to keep researchers safe.

"We handle all these materials under biosafety level 2 containment conditions," she said. "I don't want anyone exposed. We're handling them as though they were an airborne carcinogen."

In addition to Kane and Pietruska, other authors on the paper are Ashley Smith, Kevin McNeil, and Anatoly Zhitkovich, a toxicologist; chemist Xinyuan Liu; and engineer Robert Hurt. Kane, Hurt, and Zhitkovich are associated with Brown's Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation.

David Orenstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht How to color a lizard: From biology to mathematics
13.04.2017 | Université de Genève

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>