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Wiley Interdiscip Rev Nanomed Nanobiotechnol. 2009 Jul-Aug;1(4):434-50. doi: 10.1002/wnan.44.

Physicochemical factors that affect metal and metal oxide nanoparticle passage across epithelial barriers.

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Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA.


The diversity of nanomaterials in terms of size, shape, and surface chemistry poses a challenge to those who are trying to characterize the human health and environmental risks associated with incidental and unintentional exposures. There are numerous products that are already commercially available that contain solid metal and metal oxide nanoparticles, either embedded in a matrix or in solution. Exposure assessments for these products are often incomplete or difficult due to technological challenges associated with detection and quantitation of nanoparticles in gaseous or liquid carriers. The main focus of recent research has been on hazard identification. However, risk is a product of hazard and exposure, and one significant knowledge gap is that of the target organ dose following in vivo exposures. In order to reach target organs, nanoparticles must first breach the protective barriers of the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, or skin. The fate of those nanoparticles that reach physiological barriers is in large part determined by the properties of the particles and the barriers themselves. This article reviews the physiological properties of the lung, gut, and skin epithelia, the physicochemical properties of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles that are likely to affect their ability to breach epithelial barriers, and what is known about their fate following in vivo exposures.

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