Understanding the impact of more realistic low-dose, prolonged engineered nanomaterial exposure on genotoxicity using 3D models of the human liver

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Background: With the continued integration of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) into everyday applications, it is important to understand their potential for inducing adverse human health effects. However, standard in vitro hazard characterisation approaches suffer limitations for evaluating ENM and so it is imperative to determine these potential hazards under more physiologically relevant and realistic exposure scenarios in target organ systems, to minimise the necessity for in vivo testing. The aim of this study was to determine if acute (24 h) and prolonged (120 h) exposures to five ENMs (TiO2, ZnO, Ag, BaSO4 and CeO2) would have a significantly different toxicological outcome (cytotoxicity, (pro-)inflammatory and genotoxic response) upon 3D human HepG2 liver spheroids. In addition, this study evaluated whether a more realistic, prolonged fractionated and repeated ENM dosing regime induces a significantly different toxicity outcome in liver spheroids as compared to a single, bolus prolonged exposure. Results: Whilst it was found that the five ENMs did not impede liver functionality (e.g. albumin and urea production), induce cytotoxicity or an IL-8 (pro-)inflammatory response, all were found to cause significant genotoxicity following acute exposure. Most statistically significant genotoxic responses were not dose-dependent, with the exception of TiO2. Interestingly, the DNA damage effects observed following acute exposures, were not mirrored in the prolonged exposures, where only 0.2–5.0 µg/mL of ZnO ENMs were found to elicit significant (p ≤ 0.05) genotoxicity. When fractionated, repeated exposure regimes were performed with the test ENMs, no significant (p ≥ 0.05) difference was observed when compared to the single, bolus exposure regime. There was < 5.0% cytotoxicity observed across all exposures, and the mean difference in IL-8 cytokine release and genotoxicity between exposure regimes was 3.425 pg/mL and 0.181%, respectively. Conclusion: In conclusion, whilst there was no difference between a single, bolus or fractionated, repeated ENM prolonged exposure regimes upon the toxicological output of 3D HepG2 liver spheroids, there was a difference between acute and prolonged exposures. This study highlights the importance of evaluating more realistic ENM exposures, thereby providing a future in vitro approach to better support ENM hazard assessment in a routine and easily accessible manner.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]




Llewellyn, S. V., Conway, G. E., Zanoni, I., Jørgensen, A. K., Shah, U. K., Seleci, D. A., … Doak, S. H. (2021). Understanding the impact of more realistic low-dose, prolonged engineered nanomaterial exposure on genotoxicity using 3D models of the human liver. Journal of Nanobiotechnology, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12951-021-00938-w

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