Dr Tina Buerki-Thurnherr
Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology


Role of the placenta in direct and indirect fetotoxicity of nanomaterials


Nanomaterial safety is of key relevance for their sustainable production and use in commercial, industrial and especially medical applications. While safety assessment centered on healthy adult individuals, our understanding on the impact of nanomaterials in sensitive populations is scarce. The pregnant women and her developing child are particularly sensitive to toxic compounds and particles. Damage to the fetus could occur either directly from particles that cross the placental barrier or indirectly from particles that accumulate in maternal and placental tissue and induce the release of mediators.
We aim to gain new mechanistic insights on direct and indirect fetotoxicity of nanomaterials using advanced human placenta models to achieve predictive results [1-3]. In my talk, I will present an overview on our recent work on placental uptake and transport of nanomaterials in dependence on particle properties [4-7]. Moreover, I will show new evidences for indirect fetotoxicity of nanomaterials including their interference with endocrine, inflammatory and vascular signaling from the placental tissue [8].

1. Aengenheister et al., Sci Rep., 8(1):5388 (2018)
2. Muoth et al., Nanoscale, 8: 17322-17332 (2016)
3. Grafmueller et al., J. Vis. Exp. (76), e50401, doi:10.3791/50401 (2013)
4. Grafmueller et al., Environ Health Persp.,123(12): 1280–1286 (2015)
5. Mouth et al., Nanomedicine (Lond),12(10); 1119-1133 (2017)
6. Aengenheister et al., J Nanobiotechnol.,16:79 (2018)
7. Vidmar et al., Nanoscale,10(25):11980-11991 (2018)
8. Notter et al, Transl. Psychiatry, 20;8(1):193 (2018)


Dr. Tina Buerki-Thurnherr is a biologist with a PhD from ETH Zurich (2006). She continued her scientific career at Empa, where she is currently leading the Particles@Barriers group (since 2015). She has extensive expertise in the safety assessment of nanomaterials in various cell types as well as in the development and use of advanced barrier models (ex vivo and in vitro co-culture and 3D microtissue models) for mechanistic studies on nanomaterial uptake, translocation and biological effects.