Intracellular heavy metal nanoparticle storage: Progressive accumulation within lymph nodes with transformation from chronic inflammation to malignancy

Tommaso Iannitti, Stefania Capone, Antonietta Gatti, Frederico Capitani, Francesco Cetta, Beniamino Palmieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A 25-year-old man had complained of sudden fever spikes for two years and his blood tests were within the normal range. In 1993, a surgical biopsy of swollen left inguinal lymph nodes was negative for malignancy, but showed reactive lymphadenitis and widespread sinus histiocytosis. A concomitant needle biopsy of the periaortic lymph nodes and a bone marrow aspirate were also negative. In 1994, after an emergency hospital admission because of a sportrelated thoracic trauma, a right inguinal lymph node biopsy demonstrated Hodgkin's lymphoma Stage IVB (scleronodular mixed cell subtype). Although it was improved by chemotherapy, the disease suddenly relapsed, and a further lymph node biopsy was performed in 1998 confirming the same diagnosis. Despite further treatment, the patient died of septic shock in 2004, at the age of 38 years. Retrospective analysis of the various specimens showed intracellular heavy metal nanoparticles within lymph node, bone marrow, and liver samples by field emission gun environmental scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy. Heavy metals from environmental pollution may accumulate in sites far from the entry route and, in genetically conditioned individuals with tissue specificity, may act as cofactors for chronic inflammation or even malignant transformation. The present anecdotal report highlights the need for further pathologic ultrastructural investigations using serial samples and the possible role of intracellular nanoparticles in human disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-960
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Nanomedicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010



  • Environmental exposure
  • Heavy metals
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Host-particle interactions
  • Nanoparticles
  • Nanotoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Drug Discovery

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