Safety of nanoparticles under scrutiny
With the growing use of synthetic nanoparticles in consumer and industrial products, EU-funded researchers are examining how they affect organisms including plants, worms and bivalves, laying the foundations for an integrated approach to environmental nano-safety.
© Science RF #212334348, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
As nanotechnology develops and an increasing number of engineered nanoparticles find their way into a variety of consumer products and industrial applications, an EU-funded study is looking at their effects on the immune responses of organisms besides humans.
Currently, nano-enabled consumer products range from paint and clothing to sporting goods and cosmetics. The nanoparticles they contain serve a variety of functions: blocking ultraviolet rays, for example, or making plastics that are extremely light yet incredibly strong.
The effects of these synthetic nanoparticles on human health have been actively studied: such particles, even if not directly toxic, may alter the functioning of immune cells, posing significant health risks and making immunosafety a major issue. Environmental nanotoxicology, however, has received little attention.
The EU-funded PANDORA project aims to merge immunology, environmental sciences and nanotoxicology into a broader approach to environmental nano-safety that will provide a deeper understanding of the subject, and to propose innovative tools and realistic solutions.
Researchers are comparing the effects of nanoparticles, including iron, titanium and cerium oxide, on the immune response of several earth and marine organisms, as well as humans. The study is enabling researchers to identify common reactivity across immune defence evolution.
The team has assessed the capacity of selected nanoparticles to induce innate defence reactions in environmental organisms, such as plants, worms and marine bivalves, as well as humans. They have classified the reactions and identified common pathways in these reactions that can predict risks to environmental and human health. Based on these findings, they are designing surface modifications to synthetic nanoparticles that may change their impact on innate immunity.
PANDORA has received funding through the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme and will train 11 early-stage PhD students.