Author(s): Sun B, Pokhrel S, Dunphy DR, Zhang H, Ji Z,
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Abstract The production of pyrogenic (fumed) silica is increasing worldwide at a 7\% annual growth rate, including expanded use in food, pharmaceuticals, and other industrial products. Synthetic amorphous silica, including fumed silica, has been generally recognized as safe for use in food products by the Food and Drug Administration. However, emerging evidence from experimental studies now suggests that fumed silica could be hazardous due to its siloxane ring structure, high silanol density, and "string-of-pearl-like" aggregate structure, which could combine to cause membrane disruption, generation of reactive oxygen species, pro-inflammatory effects, and liver fibrosis. Based on this structure-activity analysis (SAA), we investigated whether calcination and rehydration of fumed silica changes its hazard potential in the lung due to an effect on silanol density display. This analysis demonstrated that the accompanying change in surface reactivity could indeed impact cytokine production in macrophages and acute inflammation in the lung, in a manner that is dependent on siloxane ring reconstruction. Confirmation of this SAA in vivo, prompted us to consider safer design of fumed silica properties by titanium and aluminum doping (0-7\%), using flame spray pyrolysis. Detailed characterization revealed that increased Ti and Al doping could reduce surface silanol density and expression of three-membered siloxane rings, leading to dose-dependent reduction in hydroxyl radical generation, membrane perturbation, potassium efflux, NLRP3 inflammasome activation, and cytotoxicity in THP-1 cells. The reduction of NLRP3 inflammasome activation was also confirmed in bone-marrow-derived macrophages. Ti doping, and to a lesser extent Al doping, also ameliorated acute pulmonary inflammation, demonstrating the possibility of a safer design approach for fumed silica, should that be required for specific use circumstances.
This article was published in ACS Nano
and referenced in Journal of Nanomedicine & Nanotechnology