ENGINEERED NANOMATERIALS: ASSESSING THEIR BIOCOMPATIBILITY AND TOXICITY.
Nanomaterial behaviour has been demonstrated to differ considerably from larger bulk material. The production and use of engineered nanomaterials is constantly expanding, but there remain uncertainties surrounding the potential risks posed to human health and environment. The size of nanomaterials influences their toxicity and this has been consistently demonstrated for nanomaterials encountered in workplace environments (e.g. carbon black, polystyrene, titanium dioxide and silver). Nanomaterials vary considerably with respect to their composition, charge, surface area, solubility, crystal structure, surface chemistry and shape. Many nanomaterials have been shown to interact with the immune system by either stimulating or suppressing various responses through their interaction with proteins found within blood. Many nanomaterials interact with serum proteins such as opsonins (e.g. antibodies, complement) and are rapidly taken up into cells of the mononuclear phagocyte system (e.g. macrophages). Interactions with serum proteins may render nanomaterials antigenic and it has been suggested that functionalisation (e.g. with growth factors, receptors) may induce neutralising antibodies that also recognise the body’s own molecules with implications similar to those for biotechnology-derived therapeutics. We are utilising a number of approaches to understand how nanomaterials interact with biological systems. Identification of these mechanisms may allow rational design of future materials and reduction of unwanted effects.
Interaction of nanomaterials with the human immunological & haematological systems, pathways of cellular uptake of nanoparticles (both receptor and non-receptor mediated), nanotoxicity of nanomaterials and interaction of nanoparticles with plasma proteins (biomolecular corona).
- Development of techniques and technologies for the characterisation of nanomaterials.
The field of nanoimmunotoxicology is constantly evolving as new materials are developed. In order to meet these challenges it is necessary to ensure that current techniques and methodologies are sufficient to identify nanomaterial interactions with biological systems that may be undesirable. New characterisation techniques are studied for their utility and introduced into our assay cascade as appropriate. Interaction with agencies such as EMA and FDA are also key in order to stay ahead of what is required from a regulatory perspective.