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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Mar 1;39(5):1378-83.

Cytotoxicity of carbon nanomaterials: single-wall nanotube, multi-wall nanotube, and fullerene.

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Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Peking University, Beijing 100083, China.


A cytotoxicity test protocol for single-wall nanotubes (SWNTs), multi-wall nanotubes (with diameters ranging from 10 to 20 nm, MWNT10), and fullerene (C60) was tested. Profound cytotoxicity of SWNTs was observed in alveolar macrophage (AM) after a 6-h exposure in vitro. The cytotoxicity increases by as high as approximately 35% when the dosage of SWNTs was increased by 11.30 microg/cm2. No significant toxicity was observed for C60 up to a dose of 226.00 microg/cm2. The cytotoxicity apparently follows a sequence order on a mass basis: SWNTs > MWNT10 > quartz > C60. SWNTs significantly impaired phagocytosis of AM at the low dose of 0.38 microg/cm2, whereas MWNT10 and C60 induced injury only at the high dose of 3.06 microg/cm2. The macrophages exposed to SWNTs or MWNT10 of 3.06 microg/cm2 showed characteristic features of necrosis and degeneration. A sign of apoptotic cell death likely existed. Carbon nanomaterials with different geometric structures exhibit quite different cytotoxicity and bioactivity in vitro, although they may not be accurately reflected in the comparative toxicity in vivo.

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