Research highlight

Some nanoparticles affect pregnant mice

Nature Nanotechnology

April 4, 2011

Silica and titanium dioxide nanoparticles injected intravenously can cause pregnancy complications in mice, suggests a paper online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. The work offers insight on the effects of nanoparticles on pregnant animals.

Nanoparticles have been shown to cross the placental barrier and induce neurotoxicity in the offspring of mice but detailed understanding of their effects on pregnant animals remains unclear. Yasuo Tsutsumi and colleagues injected pregnant mice with titanium dioxide nanoparticles and various sizes of silica nanoparticles. They found that mice receiving titanium dioxide and the smallest size of silica nanoparticles had lower uterine weights and smaller foetuses than control animals that received saline solution. Other common nanomaterials such as fullerene did not induce any complications. The team showed that when the surface of the silica nanoparticles was modified with carboxyl and amine groups, the abnormalities disappeared. In addition, administering heparin with the silica nanoparticles prevented the uterine and fetus abnormalities, suggesting that the complications may involve the coagulation pathway.

Although this work shows the effects of nanoparticles on mice, the authors caution that the anatomical and structural differences between mouse and human placenta mean that the work cannot be extrapolated to humans. Nevertheless, the consequences of nanoparticles on reproductive health are important aspects to consider.

doi: 10.1038/nnano.2011.41

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