Maternal exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide (TiO2) affects the
expression of genes related to the central nervous system in developing mice.
Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Particle
and Fibre Toxicology found that mice whose mothers were injected with the
nanoparticles while pregnant showed alteration in gene expression related to
Ken Takeda led a team of researchers from the Tokyo University of Science,
Japan, who carried out the tests. He said, “Nanotechnology and the production
of novel man-made nanoparticles are increasing worldwide. Titanium dioxide in
its nanoparticle form has a high level of photocatalytic activity, and can be
used for air and water purification and self-cleaning surfaces. Our findings,
however, add to the current concern that this specific nanomaterial may have
the potential to affect human health”.
For this study, the researchers injected pregnant mice with Ti02 nanoparticles.
The brains were obtained from male fetuses/pups on the 16th day of gestation
and at several points after birth. Comparing these brains to those of control
animals, the researchers were able to demonstrate changes in expression of hundreds
of genes. According to Takeda, “Diseases associated with these genes include
those we normally consider to develop in childhood, such as autistic disorder,
epilepsy and learning disorders, and also others that arise mainly in adulthood
or old age, such as Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and Parkinson's
Nanotechnology deals with engineering at the molecular scale. Materials reduced
to nanoparticles behave in ways dissimilar to those we're used to - altering
their reactivity, surface area to volume and any number of other properties.
While larger TiO2 particles are commonly used in paints and sunblocks, nanoparticles
of TiO2 are specially created for new applications in coatings and self-cleaning
surfaces and their effects on living tissue are only beginning to be understood.
It should be noted that this gene expression data cannot be interpreted as a
direct health effect. In addition, the nanoparticles were deliberately injected
at a high dose, so the relevance to real-life exposure may be limited.