Visualization and quantitative analysis of nanoparticles in the respiratory tract by transmission electron microscopy

Mühlfeld, Christian; Rothen-Rutishauser, Barbara; Vanhecke, Dimitri; Blank, Fabian; Gehr, Peter; Ochs, Matthias (2007). Visualization and quantitative analysis of nanoparticles in the respiratory tract by transmission electron microscopy. Particle and fibre toxicology, 4, p. 11. London: BioMed Central 10.1186/1743-8977-4-11

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ABSTRACT: Nanotechnology in its widest sense seeks to exploit the special biophysical and chemical properties of materials at the nanoscale. While the potential technological, diagnostic or therapeutic applications are promising there is a growing body of evidence that the special technological features of nanoparticulate material are associated with biological effects formerly not attributed to the same materials at a larger particle scale. Therefore, studies that address the potential hazards of nanoparticles on biological systems including human health are required. Due to its large surface area the lung is one of the major sites of interaction with inhaled nanoparticles. One of the great challenges of studying particle-lung interactions is the microscopic visualization of nanoparticles within tissues or single cells both in vivo and in vitro. Once a certain type of nanoparticle can be identified unambiguously using microscopic methods it is desirable to quantify the particle distribution within a cell, an organ or the whole organism. Transmission electron microscopy provides an ideal tool to perform qualitative and quantitative analyses of particle-related structural changes of the respiratory tract, to reveal the localization of nanoparticles within tissues and cells and to investigate the 3D nature of nanoparticle-lung interactions.This article provides information on the applicability, advantages and disadvantages of electron microscopic preparation techniques and several advanced transmission electron microscopic methods including conventional, immuno and energy-filtered electron microscopy as well as electron tomography for the visualization of both model nanoparticles (e.g. polystyrene) and technologically relevant nanoparticles (e.g. titanium dioxide). Furthermore, we highlight possibilities to combine light and electron microscopic techniques in a correlative approach. Finally, we demonstrate a formal quantitative, i.e. stereological approach to analyze the distributions of nanoparticles in tissues and cells.This comprehensive article aims to provide a basis for scientists in nanoparticle research to integrate electron microscopic analyses into their study design and to select the appropriate microscopic strategy.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Anatomy > Topographical and Clinical Anatomy
04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > BioMedical Research (DBMR) > Forschungsbereich Mu50 > Forschungsgruppe Pneumologie (Erwachsene)
04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Anatomy

UniBE Contributor:

Mühlfeld, Christian, Rothen-Rutishauser, Barbara, Vanhecke, Dimitri, Blank, Fabian, Gehr, Peter, Ochs, Matthias






BioMed Central




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:55

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:17

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:




URI: (FactScience: 42172)

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