Do immature lungs have air–blood barriers that are more permeable to inhaled nanoparticles than those of fully developed mature lungs?

Imaging conducted at the Cellular and Molecular Imaging Core allowed visualization of the nanoparticles.
Dr. Laura van Winkle, Center for Health and the Environment, University of California, Davis, collaborated with Harvard researchers using a cytoViva Hyperspectral System in the lungs of a 3-day-old rats to view gold nanoparticles throughout the terminal bronchiole (TB) and alveolar duct. Imaging conducted at the Cellular and Molecular Imaging Core allowed visualization of the nanoparticles.

A recent collaborative study between Harvard and UC Davis produced data backing the notion that nanoparticles (NP) more frequently crossed the air-blood lung barrier to the rest of the body in infant rats than adults. Fascinatingly, this higher permeability demonstrates immature lungs do not follow the same directives as mature lungs. 

Not only is the translocation of nanoparticles to the body from the lungs remarkably higher in neonatal animals than their adult counterparts, but the translocation of those nanoparticles diminishes with age. This study demonstrates  that a significant amount of NP can cross the barrier of the infant lung’s and therefore become systematic, reaching organs beyond just the lungs. 

Infancy is a vulnerable time period and with developing lungs the potential toxicity of nanoparticles could damage lung development and long-term functions, which ultimately leads to an increased respiratory disease. 

On the positive side, inhalation therapies could be more effective because of the increased magnitude of immature lungs to permit the translocation of nanoparticles through an infant’s system.

Further research on the discernment of nanoparticle translocation at various stages of lung development is vital to grasping the the potential health effects, as well as developing better infant drug delivery strategies. Ultimately, this study is “exciting because it shows that ultrafine/nanosized particles in the immature lung may be different than in the mature lung," according to Dr.  Laura Van Winkle of UC Davis, Center for Health and the Environment. 

The full document is available below on the National Center for Biotechnology Information published by American Chemical Society - Nano.

Age-Dependent Translocation of Gold Nanoparticles across the Air–Blood Barrier

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