Low doses of pristine and oxidized single-wall carbon nanotubes affect mammalian embryonic development

Alessandro Sgambato, Antonio Bergamaschi, Antonio Pietroiusti, Micol Massimiani, Ivana Fenoglio, Massimiliano Colonna, Federica Valentini, Giuseppe Palleschi, Antonella Camaioni, Andrea Magrini, Gregorio Siracusa, Luisa Campagnolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

174 Citations (Scopus)


Several in vitro and in vivo studies suggest local and systemic effects following exposure to carbon nanotubes. No data are available, however, on their possible embryotoxicity in mammals. In this study, we tested the effect of pristine and oxidized single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) on the development of the mouse embryo. To this end, SWCNTs (from 10 ng to 30 μg/mouse) were administered to female mice soon after implantation (postcoital day 5.5); 10 days later, animals were sacrificed, and uteri, placentas, and fetuses examined. A high percentage of early miscarriages and fetal malformations was observed in females exposed to oxidized SWCNTs, while lower percentages were found in animals exposed to the pristine material. The lowest effective dose was 100 ng/mouse. Extensive vascular lesions and increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) were detected in placentas of malformed but not of normally developed fetuses. Increased ROS levels were likewise detected in malformed fetuses. No increased ROS production or evident morphological alterations were observed in maternal tissues. No fetal and placental abnormalities were ever observed in control animals. In parallel, SWCNT embryotoxicity was evaluated using the embryonic stem cell test (EST), a validated in vitro assay developed for predicting embryotoxicity of soluble chemical compounds, but never applied in full to nanoparticles. The EST predicted the in vivo data, identifying oxidized SWCNTs as the more toxic compound.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4624-4633
Number of pages10
JournalACS Nano
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Animals
  • Embryonic Development
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanoparticles
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nanotubes, Carbon
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Oxygen
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Time Factors


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