Environmental Health Insights

Generation of Reactive Oxygen Species from Silicon Nanowires

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Processing and synthesis of purified nanomaterials of diverse composition, size, and properties is an evolving process. Studies have demonstrated that some nanomaterials have potential toxic effects and have led to toxicity research focusing on nanotoxicology. About two million workers will be employed in the field of nanotechnology over the next 10 years. The unknown effects of nanomaterials create a need for research and development of techniques to identify possible toxicity. Through a cooperative effort between National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and IBM to address possible occupational exposures, silicon-based nanowires (SiNWs) were obtained for our study. These SiNWs are anisotropic filamentary crystals of silicon, synthesized by the vapor-liquid-solid method and used in bio-sensors, gas sensors, and field effect transistors. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) can be generated when organisms are exposed to a material causing cellular responses, such as lipid peroxidation, H2O2 production, and DNA damage. SiNWs were assessed using three different in vitro environments (H2O2, RAW 264.7 cells, and rat alveolar macrophages) for ROS generation and possible toxicity identification. We used electron spin resonance, analysis of lipid peroxidation, measurement of H2O2 production, and the comet assay to assess generation of ROS from SiNW and define possible mechanisms. Our results demonstrate that SiNWs do not appear to be significant generators of free radicals.