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Evolution of silver nanoparticles in the rat lung investigated by X-ray absorption spectroscopy.

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Following a 6-h inhalation exposure to aerosolized 20 and 110 nm diameter silver nanoparticles, lung tissues from rats were investigated with X-ray absorption spectroscopy, which can identify the chemical state of silver species. Lung tissues were processed immediately after sacrifice of the animals at 0, 1, 3, and 7 days post exposure and the samples were stored in an inert and low-temperature environment until measured. We found that it is critical to follow a proper processing, storage and measurement protocol; otherwise only silver oxides are detected after inhalation even for the larger nanoparticles. The results of X-ray absorption spectroscopy measurements taken in air at 85 K suggest that the dominating silver species in all the postexposure lung tissues were metallic silver, not silver oxide, or solvated silver cations. The results further indicate that the silver nanoparticles in the tissues were transformed from the original nanoparticles to other forms of metallic silver nanomaterials and the rate of this transformation depended on the size of the original nanoparticles. We found that 20 nm diameter silver nanoparticles were significantly modified after aerosolization and 6-h inhalation/deposition, whereas larger, 110 nm diameter nanoparticles were largely unchanged. Over the seven-day postexposure period the smaller 20 nm silver nanoparticles underwent less change in the lung tissue than the larger 110 nm silver nanoparticles. In contrast, silica-coated gold nanoparticles did not undergo any modification processes and remained as the initial nanoparticles throughout the 7-day study period.

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