Assessments of skin irritation potentials are important aspects of the development of nanotechnology. Nanosilica is currently being widely used for commercial purposes, but little literature is available on its skin toxicity and irritation potential. This study was designed to determine whether nanosilica has the potential to cause acute cutaneous toxicity, using cultured HaCaT keratinocytes (CHK), a human skin equivalent model (HSEM), and in vivo model. Nanosilica was characterized by scanning electron microscopy. We evaluated the cytotoxic effects of nanosilica on CHKs and the HSEM. In addition, we also investigated whether two commercially available nanosilicas with different sizes (7 and 10-20 nm) have different effects. To confirm in vitro results, we evaluated the irritation potentials of nanosilicas on rabbit skin. Nanosilicas reduced the cell viabilities of CHKs in a dose-dependent manner. However, the HSEM revealed no irritation at 500 μg/ml of nanosilica. Furthermore, this result concurred with Draize skin irritation test findings. The present study data indicate that nanosilica does not cause acute cutaneous irritation. Furthermore, this study shows that the HSEM used provides more useful screening data than the conventional cell culture model on the relative toxicities of NPs.
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