Viable Alternatives to in vivo Tests for Evaluating the Toxicity of Engineered Carbon Nanotubes

  • Received : 2012.01.10
  • Accepted : 2012.02.17
  • Published : 2012.02.29


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) stand at the frontier of nanotechnology and are destined to stimulate the next industrial revolution. Rapid increase in their production and use in the technology industry have led to concerns over the effects of CNT on human health and the environment. The prominent use of CNTs in biomedical applications also increases the possibility of human exposure, while properties such as their high aspect ratio (fiber-like shape) and large surface area raise safety concerns for human health if exposure does occur. It is crucial to develop viable alternatives to in vivo tests in order to evaluate the toxicity of engineered CNTs and develop validated experimental models capable of identifying CNTs' toxic effects and predicting their level of toxicity in the human respiratory system. Human lung epithelial cells serve as a barrier at the interface between the surrounding air and lung tissues in response to exogenous particles such as air-pollutants, including CNTs. Monolayer culture of the key individual cell types has provided abundant fundamental information on the response of these cells to external perturbations. However, such systems are limited by the absence of cell-cell interactions and their dynamic nature, which are both present in vivo. In this review, we suggested two viable alternatives to in vivo tests to evaluate the health risk of human exposure to CNTs.


CNT toxicity;3D co-culture;Dynamic cell culture;CNT diffusion


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