Influence of Particle Size on Persistence and Clearance of Aerosolized Silver Nanoparticles in the Rat Lung

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The growing use of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) in consumer products raises concerns about potential health effects. This study investigated the persistence and clearance of 2 different size AgNPs (20 and 110 nm) delivered to rats by single nose-only aerosol exposures (6 h) of 7.2 and 5.4 mg/m3, respectively. Rat lung tissue was assessed for silver accumulations using inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), autometallography, and enhanced dark field microscopy. Involvement of tissue macrophages was assessed by scoring of silver staining in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). Silver was abundant in most macrophages at 1 day post-exposure. The group exposed to 20 nm AgNP had the greatest number of silver positive BALF macrophages at 56 days post-exposure. While there was a significant decrease in the amount of silver in lung tissue at 56 days post-exposure compared with 1 day following exposure, at least 33% of the initial delivered dose was still present for both AgNPs. Regardless of particle size, silver was predominantly localized within the terminal bronchial/alveolar duct junction region of the lung associated with extracellular matrix and within epithelial cells. Inhalation of both 20 and 110 nm AgNPs resulted in a persistence of silver in the lung at 56 days post-exposure and local deposition as well as accumulation of silver at the terminal bronchiole alveolar duct junction. Further the smaller particles, 20 nm AgNP, produced a greater silver burden in BALF macrophages as well as greater persistence of silver positive macrophages at later timepoints (21 and 56 days).

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