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 Decoding the regulation of cell survival - A major step towards preventing neurons from dying
04.10.2018 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht New Cluster of Excellence “Centre for Tactile Internet with Human-in-the-Loop” (CeTI)
28.09.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump

14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal

14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>