2011 Volume 225 Issue 4 Pages 225-234
Nanoparticles (NP) are organic or inorganic substances, the size of which ranges from 1 to 100 nm, and they possess specific properties which are different from those of the bulk materials in the macroscopic scale. In a recent decade, NP were widely applied in biomedicine as potential probes for imaging, drug-delivery systems and regenerative medicine. However, rapid development of nanotechnologies and their applications in clinical research have raised concerns about the adverse effects of NP on human health and environment. In the present review, special attention is paid to the fetal exposure to NP during the period of pregnancy. The ability to control the beneficial effects of NP and to avoid toxicity during treatment requires comprehensive knowledge about the distribution of NP in maternal body and possible penetration through the maternal-fetal barrier that might impair the embryogenesis. The initial in vivo and ex vivo studies imply that NP are able to cross the placental barrier, but the passage to the fetus depends on the size and the surface coating of NP as well as on the experimental model. The toxicity assays indicate that NP might induce adverse physiological effects and impede embryogenesis. The molecular transport mechanisms which are responsible for the transport of nanomaterials across the placental barrier are still poorly understood, and there is a high need for further studies in order to resolve the NP distribution patterns in the organism and to control the beneficial effects of NP applications during pregnancy without impeding the embryogenesis.