Material nanosizing effect on living organisms: Non-specific, biointeractive, physical size effects

Fumio Watari, Noriyuki Takashi, Atsuro Yokoyama, Motohiro Uo, Tsukasa Akasaka, Yoshinori Sato, Shigeaki Abe, Yasunori Totsuka, Kazuyuki Tohji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


Nanosizing effects of materials on biological organisms was investigated by biochemical cell functional tests, cell proliferation and animal implantation testing. The increase in specific surface area causes the enhancement of ionic dissolution and serious toxicity for soluble, stimulative materials. This effect originates solely from materials and enhances the same functions as those in a macroscopic size as a catalyst. There are other effects that become prominent, especially for non-soluble, biocompatible materials such as Ti. Particle size dependence showed the critical size for the transition of behaviour is at approximately 100 mm, 10 mm and 200 nm. This effect has its origin in the biological interaction process between both particles and cells/tissue. Expression of superoxide anions, cytokines tumour necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β from neutrophils was increased with the decrease in particle size and especially pronounced below 10 μm, inducing phagocytosis to cells and inflammation of tissue, although inductively coupled plasma chemical analysis showed no dissolution from Ti particles. Below 200 nm, stimulus decreases, then particles invade into the internal body through the respiratory or digestive systems and diffuse inside the body. Although macroscopic hydroxyapatite, which exhibits excellent osteoconductivity, is not replaced with natural bone, nanoapatite composites induce both phagocytosis of composites by osteoclasts and new bone formation by osteoblasts when implanted in bone defects. The progress of this bioreaction results in the conversion of functions to bone substitution. Although macroscopic graphite is non-cell adhesive, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are cell adhesive. The adsorption of proteins and nano-meshwork structure contribute to the excellent cell adhesion and growth on CNTs. Non-actuation of the immune system except for a few innate immunity processes gives the non-specific nature to the particle bioreaction and restricts reaction to the size-sensitive phagocytosis. Materials larger than cell size, approximately 10 μm, behave inertly, but those smaller become biointeractive and induce the intrinsic functions of living organisms. This bioreaction process causes the conversion of functions such as from biocompatibility to stimulus in Ti-abraded particles, from non-bone substitutional to bone substitutional in nanoapatite and from non-cell adhesive to cell adhesive CNTs. The insensitive nature permits nanoparticles that are less than 200 nm to slip through body defence systems and invade directly into the internal body.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S371-S388
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jun 6


  • Immune system
  • Inflammation
  • Internal diffusion
  • Nanoparticle
  • Non-specificity
  • Phagocytosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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