Study shows that inhaling a common manufacturing material could inadvertently injure the brain

March 8, 2017 by Leah Small
Study shows that inhaling a common manufacturing material could inadvertently injure the brain
Model of the structure of carbon nanotubes, which are small fibers with multiple uses in manufacturing. Inhalation of carbon nanotubes could negatively impact the brain. Credit: Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers in a multi-institutional collaboration are uncovering the degree to which inhalation of carbon nanotubes—a novel manufacturing material used to make anything from tennis rackets to spacecraft parts—could unintentionally cause neurological disease.

Carbon nanotubes are smaller than a human hair, but they are stronger than steel and are shown to effectively conduct electricity and heat. While these fibers have many practical applications, they should be handled with care by workers in the manufacturing sector, according to recent findings by Andrew Ottens, Ph.D., an associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology in the VCU School of Medicine; the Ottens Group research lab; investigators from the University of New Mexico; and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

With assistance from a $1.9 million four-year grant from NIOSH divided between VCU and UNM, researchers from both institutions have found that inhalation of carbon nanotubes causes inflammation in the brain. Previous research has shown that chronic neuroinflammation is linked to such as Alzheimer's, dementia and hemorrhagic strokes.

"Inhalation-induced neuroinflammation is presently a hot area of study as a causal factor in the development of neurodegenerative disease, leaving open the possibility that working with these compounds and inhaling them may contribute to later neurological ailment," Ottens said.

The study's most recent findings were published in a paper this winter by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Breaking the blood-brain barrier

The neuroinflammatory effects of inhaled carbon nanotubes show close links between the respiratory and vascular systems, and the brain. Ottens and his partners concluded carbon nanotubes indirectly cause neuroinflammation by negatively impacting the lungs and blood.

When carbon nanotubes enter the lung, the smallest fibers bury deep into the tissue. Researchers saw that similar to other irritants, the embedded fibers cause lung inflammation. What is novel about the study is that it expands knowledge of how lung inflammation caused by small particulates leads to neuroinflammation.

"There are many studies out there that conclude that you can get lung inflammation from breathing in particulate. It could be from the smoke of burning wood or consuming cigarette smoke," Ottens said. "The mystery was how this affects other organ systems such as the brain. That's what wasn't clear."

Pictured is the induced leakage of the blood-brain barrier and the consequential neuroinflammatory activation of the glial cells in brains exposed to varying amounts — from 0 to 40 micrograms (µg) — of nanotubes released into the lungs. Serum albumin (green) is shown having leaked from the blood vessels (purple) into the brain. At top, astroglia (red) react by forming a scar-like barrier around the leaking vessel, controlling further leakage. At bottom, microglia (red) — a hallmark of neuroinflammation — are also activated and recruited to the leaking vessels where they are cleaning up the leaked albumin. As the nanotube exposure is increased, more albumin leaks and a greater number of glial cells become active, extending further out from the vessel and impacting more brain tissue. Credit: Virginia Commonwealth University

Ottens said other researchers proposed the particulate escapes from the inflamed lungs into the blood. It was thought this would damage , leading to a break in the blood-brain barrier (a blood vessel lining that protects the brain from outside substances), allowing particulates into the brain.

But this isn't completely the case.

Ottens and his partners demonstrated the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier in animal test cases, but it wasn't caused by the particulate directly invading the brain. The researchers found the triggered a biochemical change in the blood, which caused the blood-brain barrier to open.

"The lung serves as a barrier, with our NIOSH colleagues showing that only 0.001 percent of inhaled nanotubes make it to the brain." Ottens said. "This raised the hypothesis that inflammation in the lung alternatively causes the release of bioactive factors into the blood, which then impact the blood-brain barrier."

Normally, very few substances apart from sugar and oxygen permeate the . When the barrier broke during the test cases, substances inherent in blood leaked into the brain, such as albumin—the most common protein found in blood.

With the barrier disrupted, the brain's immune responses kicked into overdrive. Glial cells, which make up the brain's primary defense against biological threats, gathered around the leaky blood vessels to neutralize the threat.

While clean-up by immune cells is necessary, the associated neuroinflammation may become detrimental, Ottens said. Investigators have shown that such inflammation can prime the brain's immune cells to be more easily activated in the future, possibly leading to chronic neurodegeneration. It is this substantial inflammation that has researchers questioning the degree to which exposure to carbon nanotubes may lead to neurological disease.

From science to policy

To get a better idea about how carbon nanotubes impact workers, investigators are working to determine airborne levels of the particulate in manufacturing facilities. The team is also developing blood-based biomarkers that would gauge the biological response that an individual may have after inhaling the particulate matter.

"We hope that this study can contribute to thresholds and guidelines for the safe use of carbon nanotubes in the industry, and provide diagnostics to assess worker's health, for example, in case of an accident," Ottens said. "As a neuroscientist whose particular interest is toxicity pathways, it is very exciting to see the potential impact in terms of the safe commercialization of these materials and understanding the risk factors associated with different levels of exposure."

Explore further: Researchers identify how inflammation spreads through the brain after injury

More information: Mario J. Aragon et al. Serum-borne bioactivity caused by pulmonary multiwalled carbon nanotubes induces neuroinflammation via blood–brain barrier impairment, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1616070114

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katesisco
5 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2017
It is very sad to see this 'common' chemical--its not---on the loose in the public arena. Only a few short years ago carbon nanotubes were developed and had known risks--dangerous risks---but I suspected at the time that it would be buried and the public exposed to yet another toxin.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
Why do we rush into this stuff without checking it out first? We already know tiny fragments of carbon can enter the body and travel around in it, but do not understand the implications of that.

I was in the small group who built and operated the test system for NASA to determine the implications of burning carbon fiber materials - it was shocking to me.

These are not only potentially harmful to life, they are also conductive, and short out electrical systems. They are opaque to RF, and can blind radar systems and communications.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
I want the goober who voted me down to debate the issue instead of sniping and running away like a coward.

This will become an important issue, and I have tied for several years to raise awareness of the problem about it with the FAA and other governmental agencies, and even Aviation Week, but get no response.

I am waiting for an aircraft fire on the ground to take out radar, communications, and other flight aids on an airport.

That will do it.
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
I want the goober who voted me down to debate the issue instead of sniping and running away like a coward
why?
you will not support your claims with evidence so it will be your opinion against everyone else
also note - i downvoted you because of your continuous irrelevant false BS claims
Why do we rush into this stuff without checking it out first?
that is the history of humanity - and it boiled down to financial compensation for the worker, management and owners of companies

case in point: aluminum dust
we know it has potential adverse affects on humans and cognitive ability, so why do we continue to use it for manufacturing everything from aircraft parts and pots to cook in to soda cans and more?

the simple fact is - this happens with almost every new technology and material
sometimes it takes time to catch up
(asbestos, mercury, phosphorous, cocaine, etc)
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
You saw I worked on the study and report for NASA on this, that's why.

If you want to debate the issue, I suggest you get the NASA report.

Captain Stumpy
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2017
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
You saw I worked on the study and report for NASA on this, that's why
it doesn't matter if you worked on relativity with einstein - it doesn't change the facts, nor does it change human nature

just like your continuing promotion of self through narcissistic delusional argument from authority while presenting false claims doesn't validate your claims when it directly contradicts the evidence
If you want to debate the issue, I suggest you get the NASA report
does that NASA report do any of the following?
1- predict human behaviour (with a greater accuracy than 40%)
2- predict market value and subsequent potential enrichment
3- determine a means to insure that the limited cognitive ignorance influencing financial promotion doesn't affect human health

if it does none of that, it doesn't apply to the argument i made, and thus is irrelevant narcissistic OT promotion and distraction due to strawman
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
Why do you bring up ridiculous irrelevancies? It is truly Trumpish.

I told you we did the experiments for NASA, and the evaluations. If you want to argue with me, go read the study and report instead of babbling about "markets".
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
Why do you bring up ridiculous irrelevancies?
i didn't - you did
you asked
Why do we rush into this stuff without checking it out first?
i answered with basic human nature - i didn't provide a reference because there was no need considering you didn't provide a link or reference either

so your defense was
I worked on the study and report for NASA
and then
It is truly Trumpish.
still no links
still no references that can be checked or validated
absolutely nothing but irrelevant OT digression from the topic of nhalation of carbon nanotubes could unintentionally cause neurological disease

you don't tie it in, nor do you provide a reference to check your claims, nor do you provide a refute to any claim other than making an obviously blatant false claim of trumpish while providing examples of trumpish OT digression

not going to continue this if you can't give links

so per your request...
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
I sent you and Ira the entire NASA catalog containing the reference to the study and report, on page 41 at the top of the page. Then, I identified it so others could look it up.

Are you going to deny it, Mister Trump?

19810025595 NASA Technical Memorandum 81308
X80-10OO9"_ Scientific Service, Inc., Redwood City, Calif. NOTICE: Available to U.S. Government Agencies and Their FIRE TESTING OF NASA SAMPLES, PHASE I Contractors. C. Wilton. G. Kamburoff. and J. Boyes Feb. 1979 161 p (Contract NAS2-9945)

The results of the burning and impact testing of graphite measure the chemical composition of atmospheric aerosols. epoxy test samples to determine the quantity and distribution of graphite fibers that might be released from aircraft crash/fire situations are reported. The design, construction, and calibration of the impact/fire test facility is described along with the tests conducted including sample preparation, test procedure, data collection, and test results, . . .
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2017
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
I sent you and Ira the entire NASA catalog
1- you PM'ed it

2- then link it here so others can reference your argument and see it for themselves (i see now that you referenced it so others can pull it up)

your claim, your burden of proof - otherwise you're expecting me to validate your claims, and i will not do that until and unless i can validate them first
Are you going to deny it, Mister Trump?
ad hominem and OT digression from the topic

stick to the topic and present evidence or STFU
19810025595 NASA Technical Memorandum 81308
where does this in any way invalidate my arguments posted above?

does that NASA report do any of the following?
1- predict human behaviour (with a greater accuracy than 40%)
2- predict market value and subsequent potential enrichment
3- determine a means to insure that the limited cognitive ignorance influencing financial promotion doesn't affect human health
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
Bye, Rumpy.

Go stalk someone else.

What's Jodie Foster up to these days, . . . ?
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-kam
Bye, Rumpy.
so, you are a goober who doesn't want to actually debate the issue (unless you can find some way of promoting your lies or self)

why are you not debating and why are you instead sniping and running away like a coward?
you reference your NASA paper, so does it quantify the health effects over time, or even by dose/exposure?
what about it's health effects measurement: https://books.goo...;f=false

it's not even new, really: http://toxsci.oxf...17.short

so you can't provide anything other than "but i wrote this" and you still can't actually provide a coherent topical argument to show how it matters to the above

IOW - all you want is attention, but now you cry because i out you as a liar?

per your own request then..

TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2017
I want the goober who voted me down to debate the issue instead of sniping and running away like a coward
What issue is that? The one about you being a compulsive liar and fact-fabricator? That debate is over. You lost.

This is no different than all the jobs you lied yourself into and then promptly lost. Only difference is there is no door here to hit you in the ass.

You can always pretend there is one though if you want to reminisce.

Youre a good pretender arent you george?
PPihkala
5 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2017
This is much bigger issue than people currently know. Automotive exhaust catalytic converters create carbon nanotubes that are so small that they are not visible at optical microscopes. So we all already inhale these and the resulting harm can be big like with exhaust lead before this knock preventer was forbidden.

http://www.azonan...ID=34004
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 09, 2017
Snipers aside, I have been concerned since we did that study in the late 1970s. What will happen if this is just hidden away, and is now serious?
PPihkala
5 / 5 (2) Mar 10, 2017
Probably the effect of carbon nanotubes at lungs is comparable to asbestos fibers. They accumulate and cause inflammation. If they accumulate other harmful particles while airborne, the worse the situation when they are stuck at lungs.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2017
PPihkala, we do not know, because we have not done the tests required to find out if we are killing ourselves.

We did the original tests of fiber evolution for NASA in the late 1970s! How long does it take?
Uncle Ira
4 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2017
I have tied for several years to raise awareness of the problem about it with the FAA and other governmental agencies, and even Aviation Week, but get no response.
You should count your blessing Cher. Why you think their responses would be any different than the kind you get everywhere else you go. Like the responses you get here?

I am waiting for an aircraft fire on the ground to take out radar, communications, and other flight aids on an airport.
Since you been waiting since 1970, you better hurry up then, because you don't have that many more waiting years left.

That will do it.
That will do what? Maybe you are hoping when that happens they are going to put a great big billboard with your picture on him (yeah a picture with you wearing your silly looking pointy cap) that says "I AM THE REAL GEORGE KAMRUBOFF"
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2017
Can you outgrow your need to get even with me for showing you up? You put all your credibility into the charges I did not work on rocket planes at the Air Force Flight Test Center, until I sent you the front page of the Test Center newspaper with my picture on it.

You griped I did not help put together,test, deploy and operate the Electronic Battlefield until I sent you to three military websites with my name an/or picture on them.

Do we have to go through this with the work for NASA? DCPA? The NRC? The fact I was Senior Engineer in Technical Services for what was them the largest non-governmental power company on Earth?

Yeah, it gets to you, someone stuck on a mud boat in a river.
Uncle Ira
4 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2017
Can you outgrow your need to get even with me for showing you up?
Is that what you call it? Fine by me. But you should be nicer to me. I am the only one here that likes fooling around with you. Everybody else thinks you are the troll. Well I do too, but you don't me mad like everybody else, you are great big fun for me.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2017
This is a science site, "Ira", not some platform for you to pretend you are some kind of Cajun Mark Twain.

If you had not started out so hatefully, I could have taken your jibes and provided a gentle riposte. But you folk started out screaming "LIAR!" and other nasty stuff. I take nothing from you now.

Go joke with your buddies on Twitter. I want to discuss science, my interest.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2017
Ira, you must understand I use my real name, and when you do the Trump stuff of making up things to attack, others here will believe it, or use it against the real me, George Kamburoff.

I am not trying to attack you, I am trying to make you see this is real and personal to me. I came here thinking I would find a good group of educated and interested people, but this is a Lord of the Flies phenomenon.

Can we start over?
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2017
Here is my point: You have a fascinating job, with the integration of technologies on those big boats, and the complexity involved. You could have told us how the technology of navigation has changed, the continuing developments of new ideas such as the foil-shaped Becker rudders, the control of three engines in an integrated drivetrain, all that.

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