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Single walled carbon nanotubes have gained enormous popularity due to a variety of potential applications which will ultimately lead to increased human and environmental exposure to these nanoparticles. This study was carried out in order to evaluate the inflammatory response of immortalised and primary human lung epithelial cells (A549 and NHBE) to single walled carbon nanotube samples (SWCNT). Special focus was placed on the mediating role of lung surfactant on particle toxicity. The toxicity of SWCNT dispersed in cell culture medium was compared to that of nanotubes dispersed in dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC, the main component of lung lining fluid). Exposure was carried out for 6 to 48 hours with the latter time-point showing the most significant responses. Moreover, exposure was performed in the presence of the pro-inflammatory stimulus tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) in order to mimic exposure of stimulated cells, as would occur during infection. Endpoints evaluated included cell viability, proliferation and the analysis of inflammatory mediators such as interleukin (IL)-8, IL-6, TNF-α and macrophage chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1). Crocidolite asbestos was included as a well characterised, toxic fibre control. The results of this study showed that HiPco SWCNT samples suppress inflammatory responses of A549 and NHBE cells. This was also true for TNF-α stimulated cells. The use of DPPC improved the degree of SWCNT dispersion in A549 medium and in turn, lead to increased particle toxicity, however, it was not shown to modify NHBE cell responses.
Herzog, Eva et al: SWCNT suppress inflammatory mediator responses in human lung epithelium in vitrro. Toxicology and Apploied Pharmacology, Vol.234, pp.378-390 (2009).