The growing use of nanomaterials in commercial goods and novel technologies is generating increasing questions about possible risks for human health and environment, due to the lack of an in-depth assessment of their potential toxicity. In this context, we investigated the effects of citrate-capped gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) on the model system Drosophila melanogaster upon ingestion. We observed a significant in vivo toxicity of AuNPs, which elicited clear adverse effects in treated organisms, such as a strong reduction of their life span and fertility, presence of DNA fragmentation, as well as a significant overexpression of the stress proteins. Transmission electron microscopy demonstrated the localization of the nanoparticles in tissues of Drosophila. The experimental evidence of high in vivo toxicity of a nanoscale material, which is widely considered to be safe and biocompatible in its bulk form, opens up important questions in many fields, including nanomedicine, material science, health, drug delivery and risk assessment.
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