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Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Probing the interactions of nanoparticles and cell membranes

(Nanowerk News) While evidence from recent studies has shown that both carbon-based and inorganic engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) can be toxic to microorganisms, the mechanisms for their cytotoxicity are varied and not always completely elucidated.
ENPs that are released into natural and engineered aquatic systems can undergo physical and chemical transformation, and the nature and degree of transformation are directly dependent on the solution chemistry, environmental conditions (e.g., sunlight and temperature), and constituents present in the environment. The transformation of ENPs will influence their mobility and transport, as well as their biological effects on microorganisms and higher organisms.
Based on existing nanotoxicity studies, it is apparent that the attachment of ENPs to the membranes of microorganisms can be a critical initial process that precedes the toxicity pathways.
interactions between nanoparticles and cell membranes
A new review article in Environmental Science & Technology ("Nanoparticles Meet Cell Membranes: Probing Nonspecific Interactions using Model Membranes") presents commonly used models for biological membranes and highlight several techniques that can be employed to investigate the nonspecific interactions (or interactions that do not involve specific cell receptors) between ENPs and model cell membranes.
The authors focus on experimental approaches that detect the attachment of ENPs on model membranes, as well as the physical disruption of model membranes by ENPs. Since the area of nanoparticle-membrane interactions is still relatively new, challenges related to these types of measurements and opportunities to further this field of study are also discussed.
Source: American Chemical Society
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