The lord of the Lungs: the essential role of pulmonary surfactant upon inhalation of nanoparticles

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The rapid development of nanotechnology is opening a huge world of promising possibilities in healthcare, but this is also increasing the necessity to study the potential risk of nanoparticles on public health and the environment. Since the main route for airborne particles to enter into our organism is through the lungs, it has become essential to prove that the nanoparticles generated by human activities do not compromise the respiratory function. This review explains the key role of pulmonary surfactant to sustain the normal function of breathing, as well as the stability and immunity of lungs. Particular emphasis is made on the importance of analysing the features of nanoparticles, defining their interactions with surfactant and unravelling the mutual effects. The implication of the nanoparticle-surfactant interaction on the function and fate of both structures is described, as well as the main in vitro methodologies used to evaluate this interaction. Finally, the incorporation of pulmonary surfactant in appropriate in vitro models is used in order to obtain an extensive understanding of how nanoparticles may act in the context of the lung. The main goal of this review is to offer a general view on inhaled nanoparticles and their effects on the structure and function of lungs derived from their interaction with the pulmonary surfactant system.