Fibrosis biomarkers in workers exposed to MWCNTs

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Multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) with their unique physico-chemical properties offer numerous technological advantages and are projected to drive the next generation of manufacturing growth. As MWCNT have already found utility in different industries including construction, engineering, energy production, space exploration and biomedicine, large quantities of MWCNT may reach the environment and inadvertently lead to human exposure. This necessitates the urgent assessment of their potential health effects in humans. The current study was carried out at NanotechCenter Ltd. Enterprise (Tambov, Russia) where large-scale manufacturing of MWCNT along with relatively high occupational exposure levels was reported. The goal of this small cross-sectional study was to evaluate potential biomarkers during occupational exposure to MWCNT. All air samples were collected at the workplaces from both specific areas and personal breathing zones using filter-based devices to quantitate elemental carbon and perform particle analysis by TEM. Biological fluids of nasal lavage, induced sputum and blood serum were obtained from MWCNT-exposed and non-exposed workers for assessment of inflammatory and fibrotic markers. It was found that exposure to MWCNTs caused significant increase in IL-1β, IL6, TNF-α, inflammatory cytokines and KL-6, a serological biomarker for interstitial lung disease in collected sputum samples. Moreover, the level of TGF-β1 was increased in serum obtained from young exposed workers. Overall, the results from this study revealed accumulation of inflammatory and fibrotic biomarkers in biofluids of workers manufacturing MWCNTs. Therefore, the biomarkers analyzed should be considered for the assessment of health effects of occupational exposure to MWCNT in cross-sectional epidemiological studies.

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