carbon nanotubes (CNT) can have adverse effects on health. Therefore, minimizing the risk associated with CNT exposure is of crucial importance. The aim of this work was to evaluate if coating multi-walled CNT (MWCNT) with polymers could modify their toxicity, thus representing a useful strategy to decrease adverse health effects of CNT. We used industrially-produced MWCNT uncoated (NT1) or coated (50/50 wt%) with acid-based (NT2) or polystyrene-based (NT3) polymer, and exposed murine macrophages (RAW 264.7 cell line) or Balb/c mice by intratracheal administration. Biological experiments were performed both in vitro and in vivo, examining time- and dose-dependent effects of CNT, in terms of cytotoxicity, expression of genes and proteins related to oxidative stress, inflammation and tissue remodeling, cell and lung tissue morphology (optical and transmission electron microscopy), and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid content analysis.
extensive physico-chemical characterization of MWCNT was performed, and showed, although similar dimensions for the 3 MWCNT, a much smaller specific surface area for NT2 and NT3 as compared to NT1 (54.1, 34 and 227.54 m2/g respectively), along with different surface characteristics. MWCNT-induced cytotoxicity, oxidative stress, and inflammation were increased by acid-based and decreased by polystyrene-based polymer coating both in vitro in murine macrophages and in vivo in lung of mice monitored for 6 months.
these results demonstrate that coating CNT with polymers, without affecting their intrinsic structure, may constitute a useful strategy for decreasing CNT toxicity, and may hold promise for improving occupational safety and that of general the user.