Ins and Outs in Environmental and Occupational Safety Studies of Asthma and Engineered Nanomaterials

ACS Nano. 2017 Aug 22;11(8):7565-7571. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.7b04916. Epub 2017 Jul 24.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 25 million Americans suffer from asthma. The disease total annual cost is about $56 billion and includes both the direct and indirect costs of medications, hospital stays, missed work, and decreased productivity. Air pollution with xenobiotics, bacterial agents, and industrial nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, contribute to the exacerbation of this condition and are a point of particular attention in environmental toxicology as well as in occupational health and safety research. Mast cell degranulation and activation of Th2 cells triggered either by allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) or by alternative mechanisms, such as locally produced neurotransmitters, underlie the pathophysiological process of airway constriction during an asthma attack. Other immune and non-immune cell types, including basophils, eosinophils, Th1, Th17, Th9, macrophages, dendritic cells, and smooth muscle cells, are involved in the inflammatory and allergic responses during asthma, which, under chronic conditions, may progress without mast cells, the key trigger of the acute asthma attack. To decipher complex molecular, cellular, and genetic mechanisms, many researchers have attempted to develop in vitro and in vivo models to study asthma. Herein, we summarize the advantages and disadvantages of various models and their applicability to nanoparticle evaluation in asthma research. We further suggest that a framework for both in vitro and in vivo methods should be used to study the impact of engineered nanomaterials on asthma etiology, pathophysiology, and treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma
  • Basophils / metabolism
  • Eosinophils / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / metabolism
  • Mast Cells
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / chemistry*
  • Occupational Health
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism
  • Th17 Cells / metabolism
  • Th2 Cells / metabolism


  • Nanotubes, Carbon
  • Immunoglobulin E