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Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jul;112(10):1058-62.

Manufactured nanomaterials (fullerenes, C60) induce oxidative stress in the brain of juvenile largemouth bass.

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Duke University Marine Laboratory, Beaufort, North Carolina, USA.


Although nanotechnology has vast potential in uses such as fuel cells, microreactors, drug delivery devices, and personal care products, it is prudent to determine possible toxicity of nanotechnology-derived products before widespread use. It is likely that nanomaterials can affect wildlife if they are accidentally released into the environment. The fullerenes are one type of manufactured nanoparticle that is being produced by tons each year, and initially uncoated fullerenes can be modified with biocompatible coatings. Fullerenes are lipophilic and localize into lipid-rich regions such as cell membranes in vitro, and they are redox active. Other nano-sized particles and soluble metals have been shown to selectively translocate into the brain via the olfactory bulb in mammals and fish. Fullerenes (C60) can form aqueous suspended colloids (nC60); the question arises of whether a redox-active, lipophilic molecule could cause oxidative damage in an aquatic species. The goal of this study was to investigate oxyradical-induced lipid and protein damage, as well as impacts on total glutathione (GSH) levels, in largemouth bass exposed to nC60. Significant lipid peroxidation was found in brains of largemouth bass after 48 hr of exposure to 0.5 ppm uncoated nC60. GSH was also marginally depleted in gills of fish, and nC60 increased water clarity, possibly due to bactericidal activity. This is the first study showing that uncoated fullerenes can cause oxidative damage and depletion of GSH in vivo in an aquatic species. Further research needs to be done to evaluate the potential toxicity of manufactured nanomaterials, especially with respect to translocation into the brain.

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