Nanomaterial properties such as chemical composition, size, shape, surface functionalisation may affect the way the nanomaterials interact with biological systems (proteins, cells, tissues). The increasing number and variety of nanomaterials requires robust, standardised in vitro methods to screen their toxic potential and to assess their safety in consumer products.
The JRC is contributing to the development and optimisation of in vitro methods suitable for the hazard assessment of nanomaterials. Well-established in vitro methods for the testing of chemicals are adapted for nanomaterials by investigating possible interferences of the nanomaterials with the assays. The relation between the physico-chemical properties of the nanomaterials in the in vitro conditions and the observed biological response is studied. Special focus is being placed on the development of methods for nanomaterial dosimetry to quantify the effective cellular dose. This work is performed in collaboration with the OECD Working Party on Nanomaterials.
Studies of the kinetic interactions between cells and nanoparticles are conducted, including uptake, intracellular distribution and translocation of nanomaterials across biological barriers, by using advanced imaging and labelling techniques (fluorescent or radioactive labelling). Mechanistic studies of cell responses to nanomaterials are also performed using a range of techniques including cell sensing, imaging and labelling methods, as well as large-scale screening tools, such as transcriptomics, proteomics and metabonomics and high content image analysis.
All of the above activities are supported by in-house expertise in the synthesis of nanomaterials and their careful physico-chemical characterisation in their pristine form and in the testing systems. This is a multidisciplinary effort between biologists, toxicologists, chemists and physicists. The work is carried out in the JRC's modern, well equipped research laboratories, and in close collaboration with universities and external laboratories.