Toward Alginate-Based Membrane Technology for High Performance Recovery of Heavy Metals in Cells

One of the major environmental problems is a global metal contamination. Heavy metals are nonbiodegradable and tend to accumulate in living organisms. Therefore, searching for biocompatible materials with enhanced sorption capabilities for selective removal of toxic elements from complex environments, low cost, ease of operation, and large available quantities that meet all requirements of the Green Chemistry concept is a current engineering and analytical task. We present a comprehensive study toward construction of an advanced biomembrane-based technology for recovery of several heavy metals and ruthenium by microdimensional alginate scaffolds. The chosen design of alginate scaffolds and their operational conditions were monitored during removal of Cd(II), Co(II), Pb(II), As(III), and Ru(III) in modeled aqueous solutions, cell culture medium, and in the presence of A549 lung cells by a tandem of biological (live/dead cell test), physical nanoanalytical (TEM/EDX, SEM/EDX), and chemical (FT-IR, HR-ICP-MS) assays. More precisely, the impact of certain experimental conditions, viz., medium acidity and matrix effects on sorption capacity of the above-mentioned elements, was investigated in detail. Remarkably, a different attachment behavior during adsorption of chosen elements by alginate scaffolds was observed. In addition, we revealed an essential concentration dependent effect of loaded heavy metals and ruthenium on cultivated cells. The obtained data allow us to gain a deeper insight into the interactions occurring in the studied biomaterial-inorganic system. Moreover, the obtained dependencies can be widely used for the development of alginate-based membrane technology employed for the protection of environmental and biological samples from the toxic pollutants.