Chronic exposure to zinc oxide nanoparticles increases ischemic-reperfusion injuries in isolated rat hearts
The use of zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NPs) in numerous products is increasing, although possible negative implications of their long-term consumption are not known yet. Our aim was to evaluate the chronic, 6-week oral exposure to two different concentrations of ZnO NPs on isolated rat hearts exposed to ischemic-reperfusion injury and on small intestine morphology. Wistar rats of both sexes (n = 18) were randomly divided into three groups: (1) 4 mg/kg ZnO NPs, (2) 40 mg/kg ZnO NPs, and (3) control. After 6 weeks of treatment, the hearts were isolated, the left ventricular pressure (LVP), the coronary flow (CF), the duration of arrhythmias and the lactate dehydrogenase release rate (LDH) were measured. A histological investigation of the small intestine was performed. Chronic exposure to ZnO NPs acted cardiotoxic dose-dependently. ZnO NPs in dosage 40 mg/kg maximally decreased LVP (3.3-fold) and CF (2.5-fold) and increased the duration of ventricular tachycardia (all P < 0.01) compared to control, whereas ZnO NPs in dosage 4 mg/kg acted less cardiotoxic. Goblet cells in the small intestine epithelium of rats, treated with 40 mg ZnO NPs/kg, were enlarged, swollen and numerous, the intestinal epithelium width was increased. Unexpectedly, ZnO NPs in both dosages significantly decreased LDH. A 6-week oral exposure to ZnO NPs dose-dependently increased heart injuries and caused irritation of the intestinal mucosa. A prolonged exposure to ZnO NPs might cause functional damage to the heart even with exposures to the recommended daily doses, which should be tested in future studies.