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Nat Nanotechnol. 2011 May;6(5):321-8. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2011.41. Epub 2011 Apr 3.

Silica and titanium dioxide nanoparticles cause pregnancy complications in mice.

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Department of Toxicology and Safety Science, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Osaka University, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan.


The increasing use of nanomaterials has raised concerns about their potential risks to human health. Recent studies have shown that nanoparticles can cross the placenta barrier in pregnant mice and cause neurotoxicity in their offspring, but a more detailed understanding of the effects of nanoparticles on pregnant animals remains elusive. Here, we show that silica and titanium dioxide nanoparticles with diameters of 70 nm and 35 nm, respectively, can cause pregnancy complications when injected intravenously into pregnant mice. The silica and titanium dioxide nanoparticles were found in the placenta, fetal liver and fetal brain. Mice treated with these nanoparticles had smaller uteri and smaller fetuses than untreated controls. Fullerene molecules and larger (300 and 1,000 nm) silica particles did not induce these complications. These detrimental effects are linked to structural and functional abnormalities in the placenta on the maternal side, and are abolished when the surfaces of the silica nanoparticles are modified with carboxyl and amine groups.

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