While silicon dioxides have been the subject of numerous studies for many decades, they have now come to the fore again as „nanoparticles“. Reactions on these particles are different, depending on the cell types and the crystal structures of the SiO2[1].


Silicon dioxides (SiO2) may be of the amorphous or crystalline type. Amorphous SiO2 are mostly contained in consumer products. While synthesized particles are also mostly of the amorphous kind, nanoscale crystalline SiO2 is obtained by grinding coarse quartz. According to the present state of knowledge, amorphous SiO2 nanoparticles are generally rather considered harmless [2].

However, different studies have observed crystalline SiO2 to exert obvious effects and to cause damage, for example, to the DNA of cells. In cell culture, various cell types exhibit cell-toxic reactions (for example reduced cell health, defective cell membranes, or even cell death) after administration of very high, unrealistic doses of amorphous SiO2 particles. The higher the dose and the smaller the particles, the stronger the effect.

Further studies prove that relevant doses of silicon dioxide exert no significant impacts and are not toxic [7,8]. A relevant dose describes a concentration/dose which may as well be reached in the living organism and is thus not absolutely improbable. Inflammatory markers were detected only upon application of extremely high particle doses. The particles were observed to accumulate in vesicles of the cells but did not cause any other structural changes in the cells [8].


In addition to simple culture systems with only one cell line, complex so-called co-culture systems are used to better represent in vivo situations in the body through simulation of the interaction of the cells. With the co-cultures reacting more sensitively to SiO2 than the monocultures it is evident that communication between different cells may increase the respective effects [9, 10]. Low doses of SiO2 particles were found not to be toxic. This positive effect is exploited for in vivo gene transfer studies using SiO2 as transporters for introduction of genes into e.g., the lungs of mice [11].



  1. Chang, JS et al. (2007), Environ Sci Technol, 41(6): 2064-2068.
  2. Som, C et al. (Mar 2010). Nanomaterialien in Textilien: Umwelt-, Gesundheits- und Sicherheits-Aspekte, Fokus: synthetische Nanopartikel. Empa und TVS Textilverband Schweiz, St. Gallen 2010. (in German).
  3. Ye, Y et al. (2010), Toxicol In Vitro, 24(3): 751-758.
  4. Yang, H et al. (2008), Journal of Southeast University (Natural Science Edition), 2008-06.
  5. Yang, H et al. (2009), J Biomed Nanotechnol, 5(5): 528-535.
  6. Yang, H et al. (2010), J Nanosci Nanotechnol, 10(1): 561-568.
  7. Brunner, TJ et al. (2006), Environ Sci Technol, 40(14): 4374-4381.
  8. Peters, K et al. (2004), J Mater Sci Mater Med, 15(4): 321-325.
  9. Wottrich, R et al. (2004), Int J Hyg Environ Health, 207(4): 353-361.
  10. Mueller, L et al. (2010), J R Soc Interface, 7 Suppl 1(Suppl 1): S27-40.
  11. Kumar, MNVR et al. (2004), J Nanosci Nanotechnol, 4(7): 876-881.


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