BUCKYBALLS DAMAGE BASS BRAINS | April 5, 2004 Issue - Vol. 82 Issue 14 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 82 Issue 14 | p. 14 | News of The Week
Issue Date: April 5, 2004


Department: Science & Technology
Largemouth bass
Credit: USDA Photo: Ken Hammond
Largemouth bass
Credit: USDA Photo: Ken Hammond

Juvenile largemouth bass living in aquariums contaminated with 0.5 ppm of nanometer-sized, water-soluble C60 aggregates develop brain damage and other signs of physiological distress, according to the first toxicity study of engineered nanoparticles in aquatic species. Eva Oberdörster, a toxicologist at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, who led the study in collaboration with Rice University's Vicki L. Colvin and Christie M. Sayes, presented the work on March 28 at the ACS national meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

After 48 hours of exposure, the fish appeared to be fine, swimming about the tank normally. However, examination of their brains revealed dramatic damage, as measured by lipid peroxidation. Oberdörster found no similar lipid peroxidation in the fish's livers or gills, but she did observe evidence of altered gene expression.

Oberdörster isn't certain how the buckyballs reach the brain. But she says it could be possible that the particles travel directly to the brain via the olfactory nerve--a result that emphasizes the importance of inhalation studies of engineered nanoparticles in mammals.

While Oberdörster cautions against alarmist interpretations of her results, she expresses concern for industrial workers who may someday come in contact with large amounts of fullerenes. She says that, along with further research into nanoparticles, scientists "need to assess their toxicity before releasing them willy-nilly into the environment."

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