TOKYO, July 28 (UPI) -- Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, used in air and water purification and self-cleaning surfaces, cause brain dysfunction in mice, a Japanese study indicated.
The findings "add to the current concern that this specific nanomaterial may have the potential to affect human health," Tokyo University of Science researchers said.
The researchers, led by pharmaceutical sciences Professor Ken Takeda, said genes affected by titanium dioxide nanoparticles are associated with childhood disorders such as autism, epilepsy and learning disabilities.
They're also associated with adult or geriatric conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease, Takeda said in BioMed Central's open access journal Particle and Fiber Toxicology.
After injecting pregnant mice the nanoparticles, the researchers studied the brains of male fetuses on the 16th day of gestation and of pups at several points after birth.
They then compared these brains with those of unaffected animals and were able to demonstrate "changes in expression" of hundreds of genes, the researchers said.
Nanotechnology deals with engineering at the molecular scale.
Materials reduced to nanoparticles behave in ways dissimilar to those we're used to, altering their reactivity, surface area to volume and other properties, the researchers said.
While titanium dioxide particles are commonly used in paints, sunblocks and food coloring, the effects of using molecular-size particles in new applications is only beginning to be understood, the researchers said.