In vitro approaches for assessing the genotoxicity of nanomaterials
Genotoxicity is associated with serious health effects and includes different types of DNA lesions, gene mutations, structural chromosome aberrations involving breakage and/or rearrangements of chromosomes (referred to as clastogenicity) and numerical chromosome aberrations (referred to as aneuploidy). Assessing the potential genotoxic properties of chemicals, including nanomaterials (NMs), is a key element in regulatory safety assessment. State-of-the-art genotoxicity testing includes a battery of assays covering gene mutations, structural and numerical chromosome aberrations. Typically various in vitro assays are performed in the first tier. It is not very likely that NMs may induce as yet unknown types of genotoxic damage beyond what is already known for chemicals. Thus, principles of genotoxicity testing as established for chemicals should be applicable to NMs as well. However, established test guidelines (i.e., OECD TG) may require adaptations for NM testing, as currently under discussion at the OECD. This chapter gives an overview of genotoxicity testing of NMs in vitro based on experiences from various research projects. We recommend a combination of a mammalian gene mutation assay (at either Tk or HPRT locus), the in vitro comet assay, and the cytokinesis-block micronucleus assay, which are discussed in detail here. In addition we also include the Cell Transformation Assay (CTA) as a promising novel test for predicting NM-induced cell transformation in vitro.