Inhaled nanoparticles (NPs) can travel from a pregnant mother’s lungs and cross the placenta to potentially expose the fetus, according to an NIEHS-funded study in rats. NPs are used in many commercial products, including sunscreens, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
Researchers exposed rats to air with titanium dioxide nanoparticles throughout pregnancy. Then they measured concentrations of titanium in maternal, placental, and fetal tissues. Using imaging techniques, they also visualized NP accumulation in placental cells.
Titanium was detected in various organs and tissues of exposed mothers, including the liver, kidney, uterus, placenta, spleen, heart, blood, pancreas, and ovaries. Fetuses of exposed rats had significantly higher titanium in the umbilical cord and heart compared with controls. In exposed rats, there was on average 40.6 parts per billion (ppb) titanium measured on the maternal side of the placenta and 36.3 ppb on the fetal side, indicating that titanium accumulated similarly in both zones. NP clusters were detected within the nucleus, rough endoplasmic reticulum, and vesicles of placental cells.
According to the authors, results suggest that inhaled NPs can be distributed throughout the body to other tissues and organs, including the placenta, in both mothers and their developing offspring. Given the many critical roles the placenta plays during pregnancy to protect fetal development, additional research is needed to better understand how NP exposure may impact placental function.
Citation: D’Errico JN, Doherty C, Reyes George JJ, Buckley B, Stapleton PA. 2022. Maternal, placental, and fetal distribution of titanium after repeated titanium dioxide nanoparticle inhalation through pregnancy. Placenta 121:99–108.
Source: Environmental Factor (July 2022)
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