Toxicological assessment of PEGylated single-walled carbon nanotubes in early developing zebrafish

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Functionalization of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) with polyethylene glycol (PEG) is among the most promising strategies to avoid SWCNT aggregation in aqueous media, improving its interactions with biological systems. However, the best molecular PEG weight and functionalization strategy remain under investigation. In this work we assessed the toxicological effects of SWCNT functionalized with PEG at 600Da in zebrafish embryos. Embryos were exposed to SWCNT at 0.01, 0.1 and 1mg/L from 3 to 96h post-fertilization (hpf). At the highest concentration, SWCNT led to toxic effects at several endpoints, including mortality, delayed hatching, malformations, reduced body length, increased ROS production and DNA damage. Even with these effects, SWCNT could not be detected within the bodily tissues of the larvae. Our results give evidence that the tested PEGylation approach was unsuitable to avoid SWCNT aggregation in aqueous media, and that SWCNT can induce toxicity even without being absorbed by the organism by obstructing the chorion pores.

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