Heavy metals nanoparticles in fetal kidney and liver tissues

Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2011 Jan 1;3(1):221-6. doi: 10.2741/e236.


The proliferation of the nanotechnologies with the production of engineered nanoparticles presents a dilemma to regulators regarding hazard identification mostly for human health. We investigated the presence of inorganic micro and nanosized contamination in fetal liver and kidney tissues by Field Emission Gun-Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (FEGESEM) innovative observations. An observational study in 16 fetuses, complicated (n=8) or not (n=8) by neural tube defects, whose mothers obtained the authorization for abortion between 21-23 weeks of gestation was carried out. Heavy metals concentrations in maternal blood were undetectable. FEGESEM assessment showed particles of iron, silicon, aluminum and magnesium in different tissues analyzed. The mean size and the number of the foreign bodies detected in kidney and liver tissues were higher in NTD fetuses as well as the number of total particles (P < 0.05, for all). The present study shows first the presence of xenobiotic, nanoscaled contamination, not detectable in maternal blood in fetuses. Data are suggestive and open-up a new clue for further investigations to elucidate the relationship between pollution at nanoscale stage and multiorgan damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aborted Fetus / chemistry*
  • Aborted Fetus / pathology
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / chemistry*
  • Kidney / ultrastructure
  • Liver / chemistry*
  • Liver / ultrastructure
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Metals, Heavy / blood
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nanoparticles / analysis*
  • Neural Tube Defects / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals, Heavy