What is it about?

This paper discovers that metallic nanomaterials found in consumer and health-care products can pass from the bloodstream to the brain side of a blood-brain barrier (BBB) model with varying ease depending on their shape – creating potential neurological impacts that could be both positive and negative. The physiochemical properties of metallic nanomaterials influence how effective they are at penetrating the in vitro model of the blood brain barrier and their potential levels of toxicity in the brain.

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Why is it important?

The data presented in this paper helps to design safer nanomaterials, and could open up new ways of targeting hard-to-reach locations when treating brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and brain cancer.


Nanoparticles are part of our daily lives being present in cosmetics and health-care products. It is important to understand that our work was performed in a model system and as such doesn’t yet prove that they can cross the human BBB – indeed the body has multiple other barriers that particles have to cross in order to even reach the blood stream (the air-lung barrier for example), but the in vitro model data do suggest that there is this potential,and that to ensure human safety we need to continue researching these important questions.

Zhiling Guo
University of Birmingham

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Biotransformation modulates the penetration of metallic nanomaterials across an artificial blood–brain barrier model, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2105245118.
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