Nanomaterials may cause damage to the lungs
In 2006, The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars published a warning and a challenge to the scientific community about its responsible use and handling of nanomaterials, as they were known to cause damage to the lungs. Now, research conducted at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, has unveiled how the damage occurs and a possible means of control.
Not only do the tangible products of nanoparticle technology surround us, but nanomedicine is fast replacing traditional means of diagnosis and treatment of disease, creating miraculous breakthroughs and improvements in treatment of diseases considered untreatable just a few years ago. Nanoparticle medicine is either swallowed, injected, or implanted into our bodies, where the toxins enter out bloodstreams, so we are not just inhaling the toxins from the products that surround us.
Just a small sample of products made from nanoparticles
Dr. Chengyu Jiang led the new research, published today in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, in which one class of nanoparticles, ployamidoamine dendrimers (PAMAMs), were investigated. PAMAMs is a commonly used nanoparticle in nanomedicine. Jiang’s group found that the PAMAMs cause lung damage by triggering a programmed cell death known as autophagia.
Autophagia is a very normal cell process, a cell’s way of killing off damaged parts of itself and degrading it. But when toxicity reaches the cell, autophagia may go crazy and kill off the whole cell as well as perfectly healthy cells necessary for the health of the lungs, and even other organs.
With some success, however, Dr. Jiang and his team were able to introduce an autophagy inhibitor known as 3MA, which inhibited the process of destruction and increased the number of cells that survived exposure to the nanoparticles.
“These experiments indicate that autophagy is indeed involved in lung damage caused by these nanoparticles and that inhibition of this process might have therapeutic effects,” Dr. Jiang said. “We will likely need to look for additional new inhibitors to block lung damage as this particular compound is not stable in humans, but this gives us a promising lead for the first time.”
“Our study has identified the principle for developing such compounds. The idea is that, to increase the safety of nanomedicine, compounds could be developed that could either be incorporated into the nanoproduct to protect against lung damage, or patients could be given pills to counteract the effects,” Dr. Jiang said, adding that the findings could also provide important insight into how nanoparticles cause other toxic effects.