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Nanoparticles may pose threat to liver: Scientists

Airborne nanoparticles present in traffic exhaust are already known to enter the lungs and affect human health.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 16:00 IST

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are going to study the effects of nanoparticles on the liver.

The scientists will assess whether nanoparticles "already found in pollution from traffic exhaust but also used in making household goods such as paint, sunblock, food, cosmetics and clothes" can cause damage to the cells of the liver.

Nanoparticles are atoms and molecules 80,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, with various properties according to their composition, which explains their widespread usage. Airborne nanoparticles present in traffic exhaust are already known to enter the lungs and affect human health.

A university release said experiments elsewhere have shown that nanoparticles delivered into the lungs crossed the lung barrier and entered the blood. Particles in the blood can reach the liver, and it is also known that nanoparticles directly injected into the blood for medical purposes are also likely to end up in the liver.

"We don't yet know if the nanoparticles are safely eliminated from the liver by specialised cells or whether these extremely small particles can enter the liver cells and disrupt their normal functioning," it said quoting researchers.

The research will try to establish whether nanoparticles, which are set to be used increasingly in industry and the manufacture of household goods, can damage the cells of the liver.