Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers probe link between nanotechnology and health

07.04.2004


Rochester expert warns of toxicity in new wave of science



Nanotechnology, a science devoted to engineering things that are unimaginably small, may pose a health hazard and should be investigated further, warns a University of Rochester scientist and worldwide expert in the field, who received a $5.5 million grant to conduct such research.

Günter Oberdörster, Ph.D., professor of Toxicology in Environmental Medicine and director of the university’s EPA Particulate Matter Center, has already completed one study showing that inhaled nano-sized particles accumulate in the nasal cavities, lungs and brains of rats. Scientists speculate this buildup could lead to harmful inflammation and the risk of brain damage or central nervous system disorders. Oberdörster’s study is scheduled to appear in the May 2004 journal Inhalation Toxicology, and is receiving widespread attention in the scientific community; it was cited at an international nanotechnology/health conference earlier this year in England by the Institute of Physics.


"I’m not advocating that we stop using nanotechnology, but I do believe we should continue to look for adverse health effects," says Oberdörster, who also leads the UR division of Respiratory Biology and Toxicology. "Sixty years ago scientists showed that in primates, nano-sized particles traveled along nerves from the nose and settled into the brain. But this has mostly been forgotten. The difference today is that more nano-particles exist, and the technology is moving forward to find additional uses for them – and yet we do not have answers to important questions of the possible health impact."

Backed by $600 million in recent federal funding and the support of President Bush, nanotechnology is a rising industry in the United States. Japan, Taiwan and other countries are also racing to produce nanomaterials, which can be applied to electronics, optics, medical devices and other industries.

The technology evolved when scientists found ways to manipulate carbon, zinc and gold molecules into microscopic clusters that could be useful in building almost anything ultra-small. Medical applications under development include using nanoparticles as drug-delivery systems, or as a super-advanced type of radiation therapy that could zap tumors with heat-seeking missile precision.

But some scientists are concerned the industry is moving too fast. The U.S. Department of Defense awarded to grant to Oberdörster and colleagues, to develop a model that would predict the toxicity of certain nanoparticles. Oberdörster is leading the five-year study, employing a multidisciplinary team from 10 departments at three universities (UR, University of Minnesota, University of Washington at St. Louis.)

They plan to test a hypothesis that the chemical characteristics of nanoparticles determine how they will ultimately interact with human or animal cells. A negative cellular response may indicate impaired function of the central nervous system, they propose. In previous studies, Oberdörster showed that nano-sized particles depositing in the nose of rats traveled into the olfactory bulb.

At this point the team is not entirely opposed to nanotechnology, Oberdörster explains. In fact, researchers hope to work with the industry, as well as with the American and Canadian governments, to seek solutions if problems arise. Another goal is to develop an educational program so that future engineers and scientists will understand the health consequences of nanotechnology.

For decades Oberdörster has studied how the body interacts with ambient ultrafine particles, including automotive and power plant emissions and dust from the World Trade Center disaster. What’s different about nanotechnology is that these particles are man-made into a well-defined size, down to a billionth of a meter, and appear to seep all the way into the mitochondria, or energy source, of living cells.

"We must consider many different issues before we come to a judgment on risk," he says. "Foremost is an assessment of potential human and environmental exposure by different routes: inhalation, ingestion, dermal. Then, what is their fate in the organism? And what are the risks of cumulative effects, given that these particles are being mass produced? At this point we’re trying to balance the tremendous opportunity that nanotechnology presents with any potential harm."

Leslie Orr | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>