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WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol
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Characterization of nanomaterials for toxicity assessment

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A key element of any nanomaterial toxicity screening strategy is a detailed and comprehensive physicochemical characterization of the test material being studied. This is a critical factor for correlating the nanoparticle surface characteristics with any measured biological/toxicological responses, as well as to provide an adequate reference point for comparing toxicity results with the hazard‐based findings of other investigators. Moreover, when hazard or risk‐based evaluations are made on a particular nanomaterial (based on a variety of studies), it is important to ensure that the nanoparticle‐types are identical or very similar in composition. This can only be accomplished if rigorous characterization is conducted. In the absence of an adequate assessment of the physical characteristics, it is easy to draw general conclusions on nanoparticle‐types which may have similar chemical compositions but, in fact, have different sizes, shapes, crystal structures, surface coatings, and surface reactivity characteristics. The determination of nanomaterial physicochemical properties is vitally important to nanomedicinal applications in that the fate, accumulation, and transport of nanomaterials through the body over time may be predicted based on specific surface characteristics. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

This article is categorized under:

  • Toxicology and Regulatory Issues in Nanomedicine > Toxicology of Nanomaterials
Figure 1.

Particle characterization in the dry state. One common technique used to characterize nanoparticles in the dry, as‐received state is X‐ray diffraction. The spectra shows the XRD pattern of nanoscale (a) silicon dioxide (SiO2, alpha‐quartz), (b) zinc oxide (ZnO, hexagonal), (c) titanium dioxide (TiO2, rutile), and (d) titanium dioxide (TiO2, anatase).

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Figure 2.

Secondary characterization in aqueous suspension. (Top) Plots of size distribution of nano‐sized zinc oxide particle samples in Milli‐Q ultrapure water, phosphate‐buffered saline (PBS) solution, and algae media taken from DLS measurements. (Bottom) Table of physical properties of the nanoparticle samples, including size and size distribution, surface charge, aggregation state, pH, and concentration. Aggregation state was qualified by time the particles stay in suspension: with 24 h is ‘severe’, 1–7 days is ‘moderate’, and more than a week is ‘mild’.

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Figure 3.

Tertiary characterization, in vivo. Particle deposition patterns imaged in vivo and in vitro. (a) Animals intratracheally instilled with carbonyl iron particles using scanning electron microscopy and (b) human lung epithelial cells incubated with nano‐sized TiO2 particles using transmission electron microscopy. Both techniques give information of particle location and aggregation state. (c) The hemolytic potential of particle suspensions in the aqueous phase exposed to blood. Data is plotted as concentration of the particle tested versus absorbance intensity at 540 nm (the intensity of hemoglobin released into solution). Each particle suspension was measured against a blank, PBS or Milli‐Q water negative control, and 1% Triton‐× 100 positive control. The samples include amorphous silica (AS), nanoscale quartz 2 (NQ‐2), crystalline silica (CS), fine quartz (FQ), nanoscale quartz 1 (NQ‐1), fully hydroxylated C60 (C60(OH)24), aggregated C60 (nano‐C60), carbonyl iron (CI), fine‐sized zinc oxide particles (FZO), and nano‐sized zinc oxide (NZO).

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