Impact of an Artificial Digestion Procedure on Aluminum-Containing Nanomaterials
Aluminum has gathered toxicological attention based on relevant human exposure and its suspected hazardous potential. Nanoparticles from food supplements or food contact materials may reach the human gastrointestinal tract. Here, we monitored the physicochemical fate of aluminum-containing nanoparticles and aluminum ions when passaging an in vitro model of the human gastrointestinal tract. Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), ion beam microscopy (IBM), secondary ion beam mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS), and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) in the single-particle mode were employed to characterize two aluminum-containing nanomaterials with different particle core materials (Al0, ÎAl2O3) and soluble AlCl3. Particle size and shape remained unchanged in saliva, whereas strong agglomeration of both aluminum nanoparticle species was observed at low pH in gastric fluid together with an increased ion release. The levels of free aluminum ions decreased in intestinal fluid and the particles deagglomerated, thus liberating primary particles again. Dissolution of nanoparticles was limited and substantial changes of their shape and size were not detected. The amounts of particle-associated phosphorus, chlorine, potassium, and calcium increased in intestinal fluid, as compared to nanoparticles in standard dispersion. Interestingly, nanoparticles were found in the intestinal fluid after addition of ionic aluminum. We provide a comprehensive characterization of the fate of aluminum nanoparticles in simulated gastrointestinal fluids, demonstrating that orally ingested nanoparticles probably reach the intestinal epithelium. The balance between dissolution and de novo complex formation should be considered when evaluating nanotoxicological experiments.