Table of Contents
ISRN Toxicology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 825427, 13 pages
Research Article

Safety Evaluation of Engineered Nanomaterials for Health Risk Assessment: An Experimental Tiered Testing Approach Using Pristine and Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes

Laboratory of Clinical Toxicology, IRCCS Maugeri Foundation, Medical Institute of Pavia, and University of Pavia, Via Maugeri, 1027100 Pavia, Italy

Received 8 February 2013; Accepted 20 March 2013

Academic Editors: A. Botta, G. C. Jagetia, M. Pacheco, and G. T. Ramesh

Copyright © 2013 Teresa Coccini et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Increasing application of engineered nanomaterials within occupational, environmental, and consumer settings has raised the levels of public concern regarding possible adverse effects on human health. We applied a tiered testing strategy including (i) a first in vitro stage to investigate general toxicity endpoints, followed by (ii) a focused in vivo experiment. Cytotoxicity of laboratory-made functionalized multiwalled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) (i.e., MW-COOH and MW-NH2), compared to pristine MWCNTs, carbon black, and silica, has been assessed in human A549 pneumocytes by MTT assay and calcein/propidium iodide (PI) staining. Purity and physicochemical properties of the test nanomaterials were also determined. Subsequently, pulmonary toxic effects were assessed in rats, 16 days after MWCNTs i.t. administration (1 mg/kg b.w.), investigating lung histopathology and monitoring several markers of lung toxicity, inflammation, and fibrosis. In vitro data: calcein/PI test indicated no cell viability loss after all CNTs treatment; MTT assay showed false positive cytotoxic response, occurring not dose dependently at exceedingly low CNT concentrations (1 μg/mL). In vivo results demonstrated a general pulmonary toxicity coupled with inflammatory response, without overt signs of fibrosis and granuloma formation, irrespective of nanotube functionalization. This multitiered approach contributed to clarifying the CNT toxicity mechanisms improving the overall understanding of the possible adverse outcomes resulting from CNT exposure.