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nanotimes News in Brief

Toxicity // Silver Nanoparticles Mitigate the Cell Damage Caused By Ethanol

R

esearcher describe in a cover story of Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) how

nanoparticles formed by very small numbers of silver atoms can protect against the cell damage caused by ethanol. The study was led by researchers from the University of Barcelona and conducted in conjunc- tion with the Magnetism and Nanotechnology labo- ratory of the University of Santiago de Compostela.

“The results of the study show that these clusters of small numbers of silver atoms catalyze ethanol oxidation at similar concentrations to those found in the blood of alcoholics and at values of membra- ne potential and pH that are compatible with those exhibited by mammalian cells,” explains Gustavo Egea, a professor with the Department of Cell Bio- logy, Immunology and Neurosciences of the Faculty of Medicine at the UB and an affiliated researcher for the Institute of Nanosciences and Nanotechnolo- gy (IN2UB) and the August Pi i Sunyer Miomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS).

Researchers applied the silver nanoparticles to astrocytes exposed to ethanol. These types of cells accompany neurons and are widely used as models for studying the physiopathological mechanisms of alcohol in foetal alcohol syndrome, a disease that develops in some unborn babies when the mother consumes excessive levels of alcohol and which leads to a range of severe neurological disorders.

Alcohol has particularly harmful effects on nerve cells, and in the specific case of astrocytes it induces programmed cell-death and an alteration of the actin cytoskeleton. Following application of the silver na- noparticles to ethanol-exposed cells, the actin cyto- skeleton shows marked improvements and cell-death does not occur. “So, the harmful effect of ethanol on astrocytes is mitigated by the silver nanoparticles, which act as a cytoprotective agent,” explains Javier Selva, a lecturer with the Department of Cell Biology, Immunology and Neuroscience and first author of the paper. The study combines analysis of the elec- trocatalytic properties of silver nanoparticles with examination of their potential biological applications.

“This is a promising field in electrochemistry applied to cell biology, which harnesses the different proper- ties of nanoparticles formed by very small numbers of atoms, referred to generically as atomic clusters,” explains Gustavo Egea.

Javier Selva, Susana E. Martínez, David Buceta, María Rodríguez-Vázquez, M. Carmen Blanco, M. Arturo Ló- pez-Quintela and Gustavo Egea: Silver sub-nanoclusters electrocatalyze ethanol oxidation and provide protection against ethanol toxicity in cultured mammalian cells, In: Journal of the American Chemical Society, DOI:10.1021/ ja907988s:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja907988s

10-05/06 :: May/June 2010

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