Nanotechnology is the control and manipulation of materials in the size range of 1-100 nm. Coupled with increasing research into potential beneficial applications of nanotechnology, there is an urgent need for the study of possible health risks. Several researchers, including those in our laboratory, have demonstrated elevated levels of autophagic vacuoles upon exposure of cells to certain nanomaterials, including carbon- and metal-based nanoparticles. While this apparent increase in autophagic activity may be an appropriate cellular response toward nanomaterial clearance, often the interaction between nanomaterials and the autophagy pathway is disruptive, resulting in severe morphological changes and coincident cell death. Interestingly, epidemiological studies have identified an association between exposure to combustion-derived ambient particles (which are predominantly nanoscale) and neurological conditions with AlzheimerÃ¢ÂÂs and ParkinsonÃ¢ÂÂs disease-like pathologies. As impaired autophagy may play an important role in the pathogenesis of these and other diseases, it is intriguing to speculate about the plausible involvement of nanoscale particulates in this process. The interaction of nanomaterials with the autophagy pathway, and the potential negative consequences of resulting autophagy dysfunction, should be explored further.
Addendum to: Stern ST, Zolnik BS, McLeland CB, Clogston J, Zheng J, McNeil SE. Induction of autophagy in porcine kidney cells by quantum dots: A common cellular response to nanomaterials? Toxicol Sci 2008; In press; DOI: 10.1093/toxsci/kfn137.Full Text Options