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      Internalization and cytotoxicity of graphene oxide and carboxyl graphene nanoplatelets in the human hepatocellular carcinoma cell line Hep G2

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          Abstract

          Background

          Graphene and graphene derivative nanoplatelets represent a new generation of nanomaterials with unique physico-chemical properties and high potential for use in composite materials and biomedical devices. To date little is known about the impact graphene nanomaterials may have on human health in the case of accidental or intentional exposure. The objective of this study was to assess the cytotoxic potential of graphene nanoplatelets with different surface chemistry towards a human hepatoma cell line, Hep G2, and identify the underlying toxicity targets.

          Methods

          Graphene oxide (GO) and carboxyl graphene (CXYG) nanoplatelet suspensions were obtained in water and culture medium. Size frequency distribution of the suspensions was determined by means of dynamic light scattering. Height, lateral dimension and shape of the nanoplatelets were determined using atomic force and electron microscopy. Cytotoxicity of GO and CXYG nanoplatelets was assessed in Hep G2 cells using a battery of assays covering different modes of action including alterations of metabolic activity, plasma membrane integrity and lysosomal function. Induction of oxidative stress was assessed by measuring intracellular reactive oxygen species levels. Interaction with the plasma membrane, internalization and intracellular fate of GO and CXYG nanoplatelets was studied by scanning and transmission electron microscopy.

          Results

          Supplementing culture medium with serum was essential to obtain stable GO and CXYG suspensions. Both graphene derivatives had high affinity for the plasma membrane and caused structural damage of the latter at concentrations as low as 4 μg/ml. The nanoplatelets penetrated through the membrane into the cytosol, where they were concentrated and enclosed in vesicles. GO and CXYG accumulation in the cytosol was accompanied by an increase in intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, alterations in cellular ultrastructure and changes in metabolic activity.

          Conclusions

          GO and CXYG nanoplatelets caused dose- and time-dependent cytotoxicity in Hep G2 cells with plasma membrane damage and induction of oxidative stress being important modes of toxicity. Both graphene derivatives were internalized by Hep G2, a non-phagocytotic cell line. Moreover, they exerted no toxicity when applied at very low concentrations (< 4 μg/ml). GO and CXYG nanoplatelets may therefore represent an attractive material for biomedical applications.

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          Most cited references 43

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          Electric Field Effect in Atomically Thin Carbon Films

          We report a naturally-occurring two-dimensional material (graphene that can be viewed as a gigantic flat fullerene molecule, describe its electronic properties and demonstrate all-metallic field-effect transistor, which uniquely exhibits ballistic transport at submicron distances even at room temperature.
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            Graphene: Status and Prospects

            Graphene is a wonder material with many superlatives to its name. It is the thinnest material in the universe and the strongest ever measured. Its charge carriers exhibit giant intrinsic mobility, have the smallest effective mass (it is zero) and can travel micrometer-long distances without scattering at room temperature. Graphene can sustain current densities 6 orders higher than copper, shows record thermal conductivity and stiffness, is impermeable to gases and reconciles such conflicting qualities as brittleness and ductility. Electron transport in graphene is described by a Dirac-like equation, which allows the investigation of relativistic quantum phenomena in a bench-top experiment. What are other surprises that graphene keeps in store for us? This review analyses recent trends in graphene research and applications, and attempts to identify future directions in which the field is likely to develop.
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              Two Dimensional Atomic Crystals

              We report free-standing atomic crystals that are strictly 2D and can be viewed as individual atomic planes pulled out of bulk crystals or as unrolled single-wall nanotubes. By using micromechanical cleavage, we have prepared and studied a variety of 2D crystals, including single layers of boron nitride, graphite, several dichalcogenides and complex oxides. These atomically-thin sheets (essentially gigantic 2D molecules unprotected from the immediate environment) are stable under ambient conditions, exhibit high crystal quality and are continuous on a macroscopic scale.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Part Fibre Toxicol
                Part Fibre Toxicol
                Particle and Fibre Toxicology
                BioMed Central
                1743-8977
                2013
                12 July 2013
                : 10
                : 27
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Departamento de Medio Ambiente, Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA), Carretera de la Coruña Km 7.5, 28040 Madrid, Spain
                Article
                1743-8977-10-27
                10.1186/1743-8977-10-27
                3734190
                23849434
                Copyright © 2013 Lammel et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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                Research

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