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British Orthopaedic Research Society (BORS)


Metal and their alloys have been widely used as implantable materials and prostheses in orthopaedic surgery. However, concerns exist as the metal nanoparticles released from wear of the prostheses cause clinical complications and in some cases result in catastrophic host tissue responses. The mechanism of nanotoxicity and cellular responses to wear metal nanoparticles are largely unknown. The aim of this study was to characterise macrophage phagocytosed cobalt/chromium metal nanoparticles both in vitro and in vivo, and investigate the consequent cytotoxicity. Two types of macrophage cell lines, murine RAW246.7 and human THP-1s were used for in vitro study, and tissues retrieved from pseudotumour patients caused by metal-on-metal hip resurfacing (MoMHR) were used for ex vivo observation. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in combination with backscatter, energy-disperse X-ray spectrometer (EDS), focused ion beam (FIB) were employed to characterise phagocytosed metal nanoparticles. Alamar blue assay, cell viability assays in addition to confocal microscopy in combination with imaging analysis were employed to study the cytotoxiticy in vitro. The results showed that macrophages phagocytosed cobalt and chromium nanoparticles in vitro and the phagocytosed metal particles were confirmed by backscatter SEM+EDS and FIB+EDS. these particles were toxic to macrophages at a dose dependent manner. The analysis of retrieved tissue from revision of MoMHR showed that cobalt/chromium metal nanoparticles were observed exclusively in living macrophages and fragments of dead macrophages, but they were not seen within either live or dead fibroblasts. Dead fibroblasts were associated with dead and disintegrated macrophages and were not directly in contact with metal particles; chromium but not cobalt was the predominant component remaining in tissue. We conclude that as an important type of innate immune cells and phagocytes, macrophages play a key role in metal nanoparticles related cytotoxicity. Metal nanoparticles are taken up mainly by macrophages. They corrode in an acidic environment of the phagosomes. Cobalt that is more soluble than chromium may release inside macrophages to cause death of individual nanoparticle-overloaded macrophages. It is then released into the local environment and results in death of fibroblasts and is subsequently leached from the tissue.