Nanoparticles damage sperm - study
By David Liu, PHD
Thursday Oct 25, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Nanoparticles like titanium dioxide and silicon dioxide added to your processed foods and cosmetic products with or without your notice may damage sperm and affect men's fertility and maybe the health of the next generation, according to a study published this month in Toxicology and Industrial Health.
The nanoparticles of concern were titanium dioxide. The study led by K. Pawar and G. Kaul at National Dairy Research Institute in Karnal, Haryana, India showed that exposure to titanium dioxide negatively affected sperm functionality and enhanced DNA fragmentation.
Nanoparticles are made of a small number of molecules of a chemical. The size is small enough that they can enter cells and big enough to have certain physical activities. The physio-chemical properties of nanoparticles are different from that of individual molecules. Ingested nanoparticles can travel to different organs.
Because what is harmful is the particle size, not the chemical composition, other nanoparticles used in foods and cosmetics such as zinc oxide and silicon dioxide are likely to pose the same health hazard.
Nanoparticles have rarely been tested for their long term effect on human health. Inhaled silicone dioxide has been recognized by World Health Organization as a carcinogen, but ingested nanoparticles are still considered safe and commonly used in a variety of processed foods and cosmetic products even though studies have shown that nanoparticles can enter cells and disrupt DNA and potentially cause mutagenesis and carcinogensis.
For the current study, buffalo spermatozoa were exposed to different concentrations (1 μg/ml, 10 μg/ml and 100 μg/ml) of titanium dioxide nanoparticles with its size smaller than 100 nm (that is so called nano-size) and viability, membrane integrity, capacitation status and DNA integrity of buffalo spermatozoa were then tested after a six-hour exposure.
It was found that six hours of incubation of buffalo spermatozoa with titanium dioxide decreased cell viability and membrane integrity while significantly increasing sperm capacitation even at low concentrations.
An increase in DNA framentation which was dose dependent was also observed in Buffalo sperm and nanoparticles were found in head and plasma membrane of the buffalo spermatozoa.
The researchers concluded "These studies suggest that TiO(2) NPs (titanium dioxide nanoparticles) may have cytotoxic effect on buffalo spermatozoa by affecting sperm functionality and causing high amount of DNA fragmentations."
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