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Air Force

In vitro nanoparticle exposure system

Device offers precision capture and deposition of nanoparticles onto cultured cells

Medical & Biotechnology
Proof of concept example of the multi-well nanoparticle exposure chamber

The global market for products containing nanomaterials (NM) was valued at $34.3 billion in 2015 (BCC Research) and a 2013 study by Vance et al., counts over 1800 consumer products containing NM. While NM have rushed into commercialization, our understanding of their potential toxicity has lagged.  One specific shortcoming to the study of “nanotoxicity” is the lack of in vitro models to allow for more rapid and precise testing.  Traditional in vitro cell culture assays introduce a NM into biological media where NM aggregation may fundamentally alter the behavior of the NM, thereby resulting in inconsistent dispersion and exposure.  In addition to the significant difficulty of reliably controlling and reproducing NM doses, these traditional assays fail to recapitulate the unique air-liquid interface necessary to accurately model inhalational NM exposures.

To help close the gap in our understanding of nanotoxicity, researchers at the Air Force have developed a device capable of precisely delivering a consistent NM dose to a biological surface.  The apparatus has multiple exposure chambers each comprising one well designed to hold a porous membrane insert along with cell culture media to generate an air-liquid interface.  Aerosolized and charged NM are drawn into the exposure chambers and deposited via electrostatic deposition onto cells cultured at the air-liquid interface. The apparatus may be configured to capture airborne nanoparticles and precisely deliver them to cells or tissue models in a system that more closely simulates a natural environmental exposure.  The apparatus may also be used to precisely deposit NM onto non-biological surfaces (such as a transmission electron microscopy grid) for further analysis.  Applications for this apparatus may include virtually any academic or commercial research targeting NM, with particular relevance to drug development (inhalants), occupational and environmental health and safety, and hospital air quality monitoring.

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