Mechanisms of carbon nanotube-induced toxicity: focus on pulmonary inflammation

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2013 Dec;65(15):2087-97. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2013.05.012. Epub 2013 Jun 7.


Carbon nanotubes have gained tremendous interest in a wide range of applications due to their unique physical, chemical, and electronic properties. Needless to say, close attention to the potential toxicity of carbon nanotubes is of paramount importance. Numerous studies have linked exposure of carbon nanotubes to the induction of inflammation, a complex protective response to harmful stimuli including pathogens, damaged or dying cells, and other irritants. However, inflammation is a double-edged sword as chronic inflammation can lead to destruction of tissues thus compromising the homeostasis of the organism. Here, we provide an overview of the process of inflammation, the key cells and the soluble mediators involved, and discuss research on carbon nanotubes and inflammation, including recent studies on the activation of the so-called inflammasome complex in macrophages resulting in secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Moreover, recent work has shown that inflammatory cells i.e. neutrophils and eosinophils are capable of enzymatic degradation of carbon nanotubes, with mitigation of the pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic effects of nanotubes thus underscoring that inflammation is both good and bad.

Keywords: Bio-corona; Biodegradation; Carbon nanotubes; Eosinophils; Inflammasome; Macrophages; Mast cells; Neutrophils.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Eosinophils / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / toxicity*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Pneumonia / chemically induced*
  • Pneumonia / pathology


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Nanotubes, Carbon