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Engineered nanomaterial exposure and the risk of allergic disease

Shannahan, Jonathan H.; Brown, Jared M.

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: April 2014 - Volume 14 - Issue 2 - p 95–99
doi: 10.1097/ACI.0000000000000031
OCCUPATIONAL DISEASE: Edited by Susan M. Tarlo and Piero Maestrelli

Purpose of review Although the production and use of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) is rapidly increasing, we lack sufficient knowledge regarding their capacity to induce and/or promote allergic disease. As novel ENMs are being developed and used for biomedical applications, such as drug delivery, it will be critical to understand the relationship between physicochemical properties of ENMs and possible mechanisms of immunomodulation.

Recent findings Cellular studies and a few animal studies have begun to examine the immunomodulatory effects of ENM exposure that may be predictive of developing allergic reactions. Specifically, the effects of direct ENM exposure on key immune cells recognized to facilitate allergic disease has been evaluated and will be discussed. However, few studies have reported specific physicochemical properties of ENMs that initiate allergic immune responses. Although limited, these descriptive studies point to the induction of cellular mechanisms that are well known to promote allergic disease.

Summary The limited data currently available suggest that there is a potential risk for the development of allergic responses following exposure to ENMs. As more ENMs are developed for consumer products and nanomedicines, further study on their potential for adverse immune interactions will be necessary for safe implementation of these novel materials.

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, USA

Correspondence to Jared M. Brown, Campus Box C238 AMCA, 12850 E Montview Blvd, School of Pharmacy Building, Aurora, CO 80045, USA. Tel: +1 303 724 8213; e-mail:

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