Acute and long-term effects after single loading of functionalized multi-walled carbon nanotubes into zebrafish (Danio rerio)

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Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are widely explored for biomedical applications, but there is very limited information regarding their in vivo biodistribution and biocompatibility. Here, we report the in vivo biodistribution and long-term effects of functionalized multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) in developing zebrafish. The fluorescent-labeled MWCNTs were introduced into zebrafish embryos at 1-cell stage and at 72 h post fertilization through microinjection. After single injection, both acute and long-term interactions between zebrafish and functionalized MWCNTs were studied. The injected FITC-BSA-MWCNTs (at 1-cell stage) were allocated to all blastoderm cells of the embryos through proliferation, and were distinctively excluded from the yolk cell. When introduced into the circulation system, FITC-BSA-MWCNTs moved easily in the compartments and finally were cleaned out by the body at 96 h after the loading. At early stages, the treated zebrafish embryos generated immune response by accumulating circulating white blood cells at the trunk region. Under transmission electron microscope, many lysosome-like vesicles were observed in the blastoderm cells of the treated embryos. The zebrafish loaded with MWCNTs had normal primordial germ cells at early stage and produced second generation later on. However, the larvae of the second generation had obviously lower survival rates as compared to the untreated groups, suggesting a negative effect on the reproduction potential. These results suggest that extensive purification and functionalization processes can help improve the biocompatibility of CNTs. This study also indicates that purified CNTs may have long-term toxicity effects when they were delivered into the body.

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