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Open Access Research

Critical role of surface chemical modifications induced by length shortening on multi-walled carbon nanotubes-induced toxicity

Cyrill Bussy1239, Mathieu Pinault4, Julien Cambedouzou103, Marion Julie Landry12, Pascale Jegou5, Martine Mayne-L'hermite4, Pascale Launois3, Jorge Boczkowski1267 and Sophie Lanone1278*

Author Affiliations

1 Inserm U955, Equipe 04, Créteil, F-94000, France

2 Faculté de Médecine, Université Paris-Est, UMR 955, Créteil, F-94000, France

3 Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, UMR CNRS 8502, Université Paris-Sud 11, Orsay, cedex F-91405, France

4 CEA, IRAMIS, SPAM, Laboratoire Francis Perrin (CEA-CNRS URA 2453), Gif-sur-Yvette, 91191, France

5 DSM/IRAMIS/SPCSI/LCSI, CEA-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, Cedex 91191, France

6 AP-HP, Hôpital Henri Mondor, Service de Physiologie Explorations Fonctionnelles, Créteil, 94000, France

7 Centre Hospitalier Intercommunal, Service de pneumologie et pathologie professionnelle, Créteil, 94010, France

8 Faculté de Médecine, 8, rue du Général Sarrail, Créteil, 94000, France

9 Current address: Nanomedicine laboratory, Centre for Drug Delivery Research, UCL School of Pharmacy, University College London, London, WC1N 1AX, UK

10 Current address: Institut de Chimie Séparative de Marcoule, UMR 5257 CEA/CNRS/UMII/ENSCM, Centre de Marcoule, BP 17171, Bagnols sur Cèze, Cedex F-30207, France

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Particle and Fibre Toxicology 2012, 9:46  doi:10.1186/1743-8977-9-46

Published: 27 November 2012


Given the increasing use of carbon nanotubes (CNT) in composite materials and their possible expansion to new areas such as nanomedicine which will both lead to higher human exposure, a better understanding of their potential to cause adverse effects on human health is needed. Like other nanomaterials, the biological reactivity and toxicity of CNT were shown to depend on various physicochemical characteristics, and length has been suggested to play a critical role. We therefore designed a comprehensive study that aimed at comparing the effects on murine macrophages of two samples of multi-walled CNT (MWCNT) specifically synthesized following a similar production process (aerosol-assisted CVD), and used a soft ultrasonic treatment in water to modify the length of one of them. We showed that modification of the length of MWCNT leads, unavoidably, to accompanying structural (i.e. defects) and chemical (i.e. oxidation) modifications that affect both surface and residual catalyst iron nanoparticle content of CNT. The biological response of murine macrophages to the two different MWCNT samples was evaluated in terms of cell viability, pro-inflammatory cytokines secretion and oxidative stress. We showed that structural defects and oxidation both induced by the length reduction process are at least as responsible as the length reduction itself for the enhanced pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidative response observed with short (oxidized) compared to long (pristine) MWCNT. In conclusion, our results stress that surface properties should be considered, alongside the length, as essential parameters in CNT-induced inflammation, especially when dealing with a safe design of CNT, for application in nanomedicine for example.

Carbon nanotubes; Macrophages; Length; Surface chemistry