With little known about the toxicity of nanomaterials, predicting how particles might affect human health and the environment is necessary for the safe development of nano products.
And researchers at UMass Lowell just may be the key.
The team has developed a new screening method that measures the effect of nanoparticles on the body’s biological system as part of a health and safety effort of the Center for High Rate Nanomanufacturing.
“The big picture here is to be able to use laboratory-based high throughput screening methods to predict material and chemical toxicity,” says Prof. Eugene Rogers, chair of the Department of Clinical Laboratories and Nutritional Sciences.
Reduce Animal Testing?
The current practice is to either not test particles at all or rely on animal studies that take a long time for results.
“We’ve developed a laboratory method that provides quick and accurate results for use by nanomaterial manufacturers that may reduce the need for animal testing,” says Rogers.
Rogers ߝ along with Asst. Profs. Daniel Schmidt of plastics engineering and Dhimeter Bello of work environment ߝ is measuring the degree of damage caused when nanoparticles come in contact with biological systems such as blood.
Knowing which materials are causing damage and why is a critical piece of the puzzle for nanomaterial manufacturers. For example, the team discovered that transitional metals and particle size can affect biological systems. Armed with this data, nano manufacturers have an opportunity to re-formulate safer products before selling them.
“By collaborating with colleagues with unique backgrounds ߝ Bello as an exposure health and safety expert and Schmidt as a nanomaterials science expert ߝ we’ve been able to measure biological oxidative damage, known to cause or be associated with many disease processes, and understand what is causing the damage,” explains Rogers.
Rogers and his post-doctoral student Shufeng Hsieh developed the unique high throughput screening method that measures the effect of selected nano particles on human blood.
After publishing articles on the meaning and value of measuring biological oxidative damage, the research team was approached by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to partner with the agency’s National Center for Computational Toxicology (CompTox). The center is integrating computing and information technologies with clinical and pathological endpoints to create a systems-modeling approach to predict toxicity of new chemicals and nanomaterials.
“The EPA has recognized that the data produced by our laboratory is valuable and useful in their CompTox program efforts and will be used to develop predictive toxicity approaches. Ultimate goals of this center are to eliminate the need for use of animals in the evaluation of chemical and nanomaterial toxicity and to help create a road map to responsible nanomanufacturing,” says Rogers.