Investigators from the Technische Universität München and the Helmholtz Zentrum München have shown for the first time that certain engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) have a direct effect on the heart rate and rhythm. ENPs are more and more used and produced for industrial products, food, cosmetics and drugs. However, their precise effect on our health is largely unknown. To investigate the cardiovascular effects of several nanoparticles, the research team headed by Andreas Stampfl and Reinhard Niessner used an enhanced Langendorff Heart setting (isolated beating heart, see above).
In their study, recently published in ACS Nano, the researchers found that ENPs made of carbon black (spark-generated carbon, titanium dioxide and silicon dioxide) caused heart rate increase and were arrhythmogenic. Other tested ENPs (flame derived SiO2 and monodisperse polystyrene lattices) had no effects. Stampfl and Niessner stated that it is likely that norepinephrine (noradrenaline) released by sympathetic nerve endings in the myocardium is responsible for the increase in heart rate. Their study findings support earlier observations in epidemiological study setting of ENPs affecting heart rate and rhythm.
We are exposed to nanoparticles everyday, for example, spark-generated carbon in daily traffic jams, and carbon black, used in products like plastics or ink. In medicine, nanoparticles are increasingly being used as drug transporters in the human body. Most of them are made of carbon or silicate. Current and future study findings could help in selecting the particle types that do not affect the heart in a negative way.
The study team from Munich will investigate in future studies why the ENPs have these cardiovascular effects and they encourage the use of the Langendorff Heart as a model to learn more about nanoparticles’ toxic effects on the heart.