The exponential rise in production and use of nanomaterials increases the risk of exposure for nanoparticles in the working environment. The most important and most exposed organs in people are the lungs, brain, and blood. Studies have shown a direct link between exposure to nanoparticles and negative health effects such as cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neurological diseases. This constitutes a potential increased public health risk in working life.

Developing an advanced lung cell model

Inhalation is the most common route by which microscopic particles and other pollutants enter the human body. Microscopic particles, such as ultrafine particles and nanoparticles, can easily penetrate and deposit in the alveoli of the lungs, which are the main gateway for small particles and other pollutants to the human body. Exposure for polluted air containing high levels of these particles may lead to lung injury or disease.

With this project, we want to develop, establish, and standardize a laboratory model close to the real-life exposure situation. To achieve this, we are developing a lung cell model that will simulate lung exposure. The advanced model will be developed to reproduce a histological in vivo situation of the air-blood barrier in the alveoli of the lower respiratory tract. The model should be used in combination with the aerosol exposure system (Vitrocell). This combined air-liquid interface (ALI) model can serve as a more realistic model for studying lung processes and will be a valuable tool for evaluating the toxicity effect of nanomaterials and reduce the need for animal and human studies.

The project also has ambitions to develop a brain cell model and do comparative studies with mice as a model for inflammation.

Different types of nanoparticles

Three typical nanoparticles, different in size and shape, have been chosen for this project. Some of them are traditionally used in European and worldwide industries, for example in the production of paints, sunscreens, food coloring (TiO2), solar panels, water filtration, jewelry, photography, disinfectants (AgNPs), catalysts, LED lights, disinfectants (CeO2).

Project manager: Shan Narui