Air-liquid interface cell exposure system (ALICE): a realistic method for dose-controlled nanomaterial exposures of lung cells in vitro

The Air-Liquid Interface Cell Exposure (ALICE) system represents a sophisticated method for in vitro investigations of the potential risk upon inhalation of a variety of nanomaterials. The system consists of a cell exposure chamber, which is temperature and humidity controlled, connected to a continuous and filtered airflow to account for a physiological and semi-sterile environment. A vibrating membrane nebulizer at the side of the exposure chamber produces a dense cloud of aerosol droplets, which settles due to rapid droplet fall-out gently onto cells cultivated at the air-liquid interface. An integrated quartz crystal microbalance is used to monitor dynamically the deposited mass on the bottom of the exposure chamber to estimate the cell specific deposited dose. The system has been originally established using spherical zinc oxide nanoparticles (Lenz et al. Part Fibre Toxicol. 2009) and offers fast, spatially homogeneous, controllable and efficient delivery of nanoparticles or dissolved substances. Here, the ALICE finds application in hazard assessment studies of silver, gold, and zinc nanoparticles. In combination with an in vitro triple cell model of the human epithelial airway barrier cultivated at the air liquid interface, the ALICE offers a realistic in vitro hazard assessment approach for inhalatory risk assessment studies.

Principal investigator

Involved people

External partners

Dr. Otmar Schmid

Helmholtz Zentrum, M√ľnchen


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