Influence of purity and surface oxidation on cytotoxicity of multiwalled carbon nanotubes with human neuroblastoma cells

Orazio Vittorio, Vittoria Raffa, Alfred Cuschieri

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    147 Citations (Scopus)


    There are conflicting data concerning the safety and biocompatibility of carbon nanotubes (CNTs). In some reports CNTs have been used for gene delivery without significant toxicity, whereas in others various cytotoxic effects were observed, including induction of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), DNA damage, and apoptosis. Although it is clear that CNT production methods, purity, and functionalization treatments impact on biocompatibility, most of the published reports lack detailed characterization of the CNT samples used. We investigated the effect of various physicochemical features of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) on toxicity and biocompatibility with cultured human neuroblastoma cells by using MTT, WST-1, Hoechst, and oxidative stress assays. In vitro experiments confirm that after 3 days of incubation with three different types of CNTs dispersed in Pluronic F127 solution, 0.01% cell viability is not affected and apoptosis and ROS are not induced in the SH-SY5Y cells. With prolonged cultures and continued propagation in the presence of MWCNTs, the loss of cell viability was minimal for pure MWCNTs (99% purity), but cell proliferation decreased significantly for 97% purity MWCNTs and acid-treated MWCNTs (97% purity, surface oxidation 8%); no intracellular ROS were detected. When the concentration of CNTs increases, purity and surface oxidation seem to affect cell viability (ED25 is 48, 34.4, and 18.4 mu g/mL, respectively, for 99% purity MWCNTs, 97% purity MWCNTs, and acid-treated 97% purity MWCNTs. Our results indicate that concentrations of 5-10 mu g/mL MWCNTs seem ideal for studies on the design and development of artificial MWCNT nanovectors for gene and drug therapy against cancer.

    From the Clinical Editor: With prolonged cultures, loss of cell viability was minimal for preparations with 99% purity, but significant adverse effects were detected with 97% purity and with acid-treated preparations. A concentrations of 5-10 mu g/mL of MWCNTs seems ideal for gene and drug therapy against cancer. (C) 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)424-431
    Number of pages8
    JournalNanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


    • Multiwalled carbon nanotubes
    • Cell viability
    • Reactive oxygen species
    • Apoptosis
    • Human neuroblastoma cells
    • IN-VITRO
    • RATS
    • VIVO


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