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Technology and Health News > Monday, November-09-2009

Nanoparticles: influence from afar

The particles of cobalt-chromium can cause DNA damage even if they do not come physically into contact with the cells.

The nano-particles manage to damage the DNA of cells protected by a barrier made up of cellular membranes, without physically entering into contact with the cell, but rather through a multitude of chemical signals.

This was found in a study coordinated at the Bristol Implant Research Center, proving that it brings out a new risk associated with nanotechnology, but also the opportunity to exploit this behavior in an innovative way.

Nano-particles are now widely used. In surgery, for example, are an integral part of prostheses and implants. The research conducted so far on the risks of nanoparticles, however, relates mainly to the effects of direct exposure, while very little is known about what can cause the indirect exposure. In the new study, researchers have wondered if a barrier device was able to protect cells from the effects of nano-particles consisting of chromium and cobalt in the tissues of the clothes and orthopedic implants. The researchers interposed a barrier between nanoparticles formed out of multilayer chromium-cobalt (in quantities thousands of times greater than those with whom we come in contact normally) and a culture of human fibroblasts (connective tissue cells).

Although nano-particles have not managed to cross the membrane, the fibroblasts had DNA mutations which were ten times more than the control fibroblasts. According to scholars, the effect is due to chemical signals between the cell membrane and fibroblasts. If the lines of communication between them are broken, the rate of DNA damage returned to normal.

But there is also a positive consequence of the discovery: if the barrier of the human body works this way - the researchers are asking if we can get the action of new drugs to cells without being physically in the body. We are meanwhile waiting for new studies to give an answer to this question, the authors say there is currently no reason to believe that the quantity of nanoparticles to which we are exposed has a danger to health, but the study should serve as a warning so that all the risks are considered (even indirect ones).

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