Scientists Continue Using Nanoparticles
Without Knowing How They Affect Us
Tiny, engineered nanomaterials can already be found in many
consumer products, and have been hailed as having widespread future
uses in areas ranging from medicine to industrial processes. However,
little is known about what happens if these nanomaterials get
into your body where do they go? NC State researchers are
working to answer that question under a grant from the National
Institutes of Health (NIH).
Last month, Canadian engineers suggest that research is needed
into the risks associated with the growing field of nanotechnology
manufacture so that appropriate protective equipment can be developed
"There has been a great deal of research into the use of
manufactured carbon nanomaterials in various products, but there
are still a lot of questions about how these materials will interact
with biological systems," says Dr. Nancy Monteiro-Riviere,
a professor of investigative dermatology and toxicology at the
Center for Chemical Toxicology Research and Pharmacokinetics at
NC State and lead investigator of the study. "There is a
crucial need to understand how these manufactured carbon nanomaterials
will act once they are in the body particularly where environmental
or occupational exposure can occur."
The two-year research project, which is being funded by NIH at
approximately $658,000, has several specific goals. First, the
researchers will determine how and whether the size and surface
charge of four fullerenes or specifically shaped carbon
nanoparticles effects how the fullerenes interact with
the body. "Our hypothesis is that the size and charge of
these fullerenes will dictate how the nanoparticles are absorbed
by the body, how they are distributed within the body, how the
body metabolizes the nanoparticles and ultimately
how and whether the body can eliminate the nanoparticles,"
A second goal is to determine how fullerene size and surface
charge affect the distribution of the nanoparticles in the body's
organs and plasma, when the fullerenes are injected intravenously.
This component of the study will be performed in animal models
that are well understood, and where the findings can then be extrapolated
to humans. Researchers will also identify any adverse health effects
resulting from acute exposure to the nanomaterials.
Finally, the researchers will assess how the body absorbs fullerenes
when exposed to the nanomaterials orally or through abraded skin
two routes of exposure that are particularly relevant to
real-world scenarios, such as exposure in the workplace.
"The work being done in this project will not only improve
our understanding of how nanomaterials behave in the body, but
will also help us identify in vitro assays, which can be performed
in a laboratory, that predict how the nanomaterials will behave
in the body," says Monteiro-Riviere.
Reference Source 125
November 5, 2009