An experimental approach to mimicking and analyzing the hazard associated with an inhalatory exposure to cellulose nanowhiskers

Research aims to assess the hazard of cellulose nanowhiskers using a realistic exposure system and a sophisticated in vitro multi-cellular system.

Cellulose nanowhiskers offer highly beneficial mechanical properties when used as high performance polymer composites. During material processing, cellulose nanowhiskers may be released into the air and subsequently inhaled. The main portal of entry into the human body is primarily considered to be the lung. The aim of this project is to simulate cellulose nanowhisker exposure to the human lung via inhalation by using the Air Liquid Interface Cell Exposure system (ALICE), a realistic exposure system that has previously been established with spherical nanoparticles. After thorough characterization in both a stock solution and following successful nebulisation using the ALICE, a sophisticated 3D in vitro model of the human epithelial airway barrier will be exposed to a panel of cellulose nanowhiskers which vary in dimensions and surface characteristics. The ability for the cellulose nanocrystals to elicit a number of biological effects (i.e. cytotoxicity, oxidative stress, pro-inflammatory responses and genotoxicity) will be determined in addition to their manner of interaction (i.e.uptake processes and intracellular localisation). In summary, by using well characterised CNCs with a realistic inhalatory exposure system and sophisticated biological evaluation of the CNC-lung cell interaction in vitro, a first understanding of the potential hazard of cellulose nanowhiskers will be gained.

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