Nanotube Toxicity

March Meeting 2010


James Riordon, APS
Jason Socrates Bardi, AIP
Phillip Schewe, AIP


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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The effects of carbon nanotubes on living tissue have received a lot of recent attention as the tiny structures are incorporated into new kinds of electronics and studied for new drug delivery methods. Because of their tiny size, nanotubes can penetrate the membranes that surround our cells, and studies have suggested that they can be harmful when inhaled. 

To get a better idea of how worried we should be, Michelle Chen of Simmons College treated ovarian cells from hamsters with different concentrations of carbon nanotubes. After inspecting the surface of the cells to look for signs of damage, she found that high levels can cause problems, but that lower levels of carbon nanotubes, in the range of quantities now being explored for drug delivery technologies, caused no noticeable changes.

"Nanotubes can enter cells, do their drug delivery job, and it doesn't cause the cells to die," said Chen. "At low concentrations, the cells reproduced just fine."

Related March Meeting Session

Gray arrow   Abstract: X30.00007 : Effect of Carbon Nanotubes on Mammalian Cells

About APS

The American Physical Society is the leading professional organization of physicists, representing more than 48,000 physicists in academia and industry in the United States and internationally. APS has offices in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C. 

About AIP

Headquartered in College Park, MD, the American Institute of Physics is a not-for-profit membership corporation chartered in New York State in 1931 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare.