Genotoxic and inflammatory effects of nanofibrillated cellulose in murine lungs

Julia Catalán, Elina Rydman, Kukka Aimonen, Kati-Susanna Hannukainen, Satu Suhonen, Esa Vanhala, Carlos Moreno, Valérie Meyer, Denilson da Silva Perez, Asko Sneck, Ulla Forsström, Casper Højgaard, Martin Willemoes, Jacob R. Winther, Ulla Vogel, Henrik Wolff, Harri Alenius, Kai M. Savolainen, Hannu Norppa

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    57 Citations (Scopus)


    Nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) is a sustainable and renewable nanomaterial, with diverse potential applications in the paper and medical industries. As NFC consists of long fibres of high aspect ratio, we examined here whether TEMPO-(2,2,6,6-tetramethyl-piperidin-1-oxyl) oxidised NFC (length 300-1000 nm, thickness 10-25 nm), administrated by a single pharyngeal aspiration, could be genotoxic to mice, locally in the lungs or systemically in the bone marrow. Female C57Bl/6 mice were treated with four different doses of NFC (10, 40, 80 and 200 µg/mouse), and samples were collected 24 h later. DNA damage was assessed by the comet assay in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and lung cells, and chromosome damage by the bone marrow erythrocyte micronucleus assay. Inflammation was evaluated by BAL cell counts and analysis of cytokines and histopathological alterations in the lungs. A significant induction of DNA damage was observed at the two lower doses of NFC in lung cells, whereas no increase was seen in BAL cells. No effect was detected in the bone marrow micronucleus assay, either. NFC increased the recruitment of inflammatory cells to the lungs, together with a dose-dependent increase in mRNA expression of tumour necrosis factor α, interleukins 1β and 6, and chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 5, although there was no effect on the levels of the respective proteins. The histological analysis showed a dose-related accumulation of NFC in the bronchi, the alveoli and some in the cytoplasm of macrophages. In addition, neutrophilic accumulation in the alveolar lung space was observed with increasing dose. Our findings showed that NFC administered by pharyngeal aspiration caused an acute inflammatory response and DNA damage in the lungs, but no systemic genotoxic effect in the bone marrow. The present experimental design did not, however, allow us to determine whether the responses were transient or could persist for a longer time.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)23-31
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    This work was supported by European Commission under grant agreement FP7-228802 (SUNPAP).


    • safety
    • nanocellulose
    • NFC
    • nanofibrillated cellulose
    • cellulose nanofibrils
    • genotoxicity
    • inflammation
    • lungs
    • mice
    • occupational safety
    • DNA damage


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