The effect of nano- and micron-sized particles of cobalt-chromium alloy on human fibroblasts in vitro

Biomaterials. 2007 Jul;28(19):2946-58. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2007.02.034. Epub 2007 Mar 1.


Wear debris from metal on polyethylene joint replacements causes asceptic loosening as a result of an inflammatory reaction of macrophages to micron-sized particles. Metal on metal implants, which generate nanoparticles, have been reintroduced into surgical practise in order to avoid this problem. There is a current concern about possible long-term effects of exposure to metal particles. In this study, the cytotoxic and genotoxic effects of nanoparticles and micron-sized particles of cobalt chrome alloy have been compared using human fibroblasts in tissue culture. Nanoparticles, which caused more free radicals in an acellular environment, induced more DNA damage than micron-sized particles using the alkaline comet assay. They induced more aneuploidy and more cytotoxicity at equivalent volumetric dose. Nanoparticles appeared to disintegrate within the cells faster than microparticles with the creation of electron dense deposits in the cell, which were enriched in cobalt. The mechanism of cell damage appears to be different after exposure to nanoparticles and microparticles. The concept of nanotoxicology is, therefore, an important consideration in the design of future surgical devices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aneuploidy
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromium Alloys / chemistry
  • Chromium Alloys / toxicity*
  • Comet Assay
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • DNA Damage
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects*
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Materials Testing
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Nanotechnology
  • Particle Size*


  • Chromium Alloys
  • Cytokines
  • Free Radicals