Carbon Nanotubes Found In Human Lungs For The First Time

Carbon Nanotubes Found in Human Lungs For the First Time

What's that up your nose? Researchers have found carbon nanotubes lurking in the lungs of children in Paris, marking the first time the tiny tubes have been observed in humans.

New Scientist reports thatDuring a study of the fluid found in the airways of 64 astmathic children, a team from the University of Paris-Saclay found carbon nanotubes in each and every sample. In five cases they also found the nanotubes within the immune cells of lungs, known as macrophages, that help clear unwanted particles from the airways. The results are published in EBioMedicine.

For a little bit of extra context for those unfamiliar with carbon nanotubes, they're cylindrical carbon molecules -- imagine a sheet of graphene wrapped up into a tube. Their material properties of light weight, good conductivity and high strength have made them popular in the fields of nanotechnology, electronics and optics.

The total number of nanotubes and their source remain unclear, say the researchers, nor is there necessarily any link between their asthma and the presence of the carbon tubes. However, as New Scientist points out, mouse studies have shown that carbon nanotubes have been associated with immune reactions reminiscent of those brought about by asbestos.

It remains unclear what, if any, effects carbon nanotubes have in the respiratory tracts of humans. Likely time will tell.

[EBioMedicine via New Scientist]

Image by Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock