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Toxicol In Vitro. 2009 Mar;23(2):356-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2008.12.008. Epub 2008 Dec 16.

The use of established skeletal muscle cell lines to assess potential toxicity from embedded metal fragments.

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  • 1Graduate School of Nursing, Uniformed Services University, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda, MD 20814-4799, USA. mikane@usuhs.mil


The use of novel materials on the modern battlefield, both in military munitions as well as in Improvised Explosive Devices, opens the possibility of wounds with embedded fragments whose health effects and toxicity characteristics have not been fully investigated, if at all. The costly and time-consuming nature of standard two-year lifespan studies prohibits the testing of many materials. In this report, we describe an in vitro system for rapidly assessing potential toxicity of metals and metal mixtures. Using rat L6 and mouse C2C12 skeletal muscle cells and tests for cellular viability, we have shown that two militarily relevant tungsten alloy mixtures (W/Ni/Co and W/Ni/Fe) significantly decreased the metabolic viability of rat L6 cells, whereas the viability of mouse C2C12 cells was not affected by W/Ni/Co and only slightly affected by W/Ni/Fe. In addition, viability assessed through lysosomal uptake of neutral red dye was not affected by either mixture in either cell line indicating that the mitochondria may be the target organelle of these unique metal mixtures. Development of this in vitro screening system may provide a procedure by which the potential toxicities of embedded metal fragments can be rapidly assessed.

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