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Impact of Heavy Metals on Host Cells: Special Focus on Nickel-Mediated Pathologies and Novel Interventional Approaches

[ Vol. 20 , Issue. 7 ]


Thea Magrone*, Matteo A. Russo and Emilio Jirillo   Pages 1041 - 1058 ( 18 )


Background: Heavy metals [arsenic, aluminium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, nickel (Ni), palladium and titanium] are environmental contaminants able to impact with host human cells, thus, leading to severe damage.

Objective: In this review, the detrimental effects of several heavy metals on human organs will be discussed and special emphasis will be placed on Ni. In particular, Ni is able to interact with Toll-like receptor-4 on immune and non-immune cells, thus, triggering the cascade of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Then, inflammatory and allergic reactions mediated by Ni will be illustrated within different organs, even including the central nervous system, airways and the gastrointestinal system.

Discussion: Different therapeutic strategies have been adopted to mitigate Ni-induced inflammatoryallergic reactions. In this context, the ability of polyphenols to counteract the inflammatory pathway induced by Ni on peripheral blood leukocytes from Ni-sensitized patients will be outlined. In particular, polyphenols are able to decrease serum levels of interleukin (IL)-17, while increasing levels of IL- 10. These data suggest that the equilibrium between T regulatory cells and T helper 17 cells is recovered with IL-10 acting as an anti-inflammatory cytokine. In the same context, polyphenols reduced elevated serum levels of nitric oxide, thus, expressing their anti-oxidant potential. Finally, the carcinogenic potential of heavy metals, even including Ni, will be highlighted.

Conclusion: Heavy metals, particularly Ni, are spread in the environment. Nutritional approaches seem to represent a novel option in the treatment of Ni-induced damage and, among them, polyphenols should be taken into consideration for their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.


Allergy, carcinogenesis, cellular and molecular rehabilitation, heavy metals, inflammation, immune response, nickel, polyphenols.


Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neuroscience and Sensory Organs, School of Medicine, University of Bari, Bari, MEBIC Consortium, San Raffaele Open University of Rome and IRCCS San Raffaele Pisana of Rome, Rome, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neuroscience and Sensory Organs, School of Medicine, University of Bari, Bari

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