Scientists are finding that particles that are barely there tiny objects known as nanoparticles that have found a home in electronics, food containers, sunscreens, and a variety of applications can breech our most personal protective barrier: The skin.
The particles under scrutiny by Lisa DeLouise, Ph.D., are almost unfathomably tiny. The particles are less than one five-thousandth the width of a human hair. If the width of that strand of hair were equivalent to the length of a football field, a typical nanoparticle wouldn't even belly up to the one-inch line.
In the September issue of the journal Nano Letters, a team led by DeLouise at the University of Rochester Medical Center published a paper showing that nanoparticles pass through the skin of a living organism, a type of mouse commonly used as a model to study the damaging effects of sunlight.
It's the strongest evidence yet indicating that some nanoparticles are so small that they can actually seep through skin, especially when the skin has been damaged.
The health implications of nanoparticles in the body are uncertain, said DeLouise, an assistant professor of Dermatology and Biomedical Engineering and an expert on the properties of nanoparticles. Other scientists have found that the particles can accumulate in the lymph system, the liver, the nervous system, and in other areas of the body. In her study, she found that the particles accumulate around the hair follicles and in tiny skin folds.
DeLouise, a chemist, points out that her study did not directly address the safety of nanoparticles in any way. "We simply wanted to see if nanoparticles could pass through the skin, and we found that they can under certain conditions," she said.
DeLouise's work is part of a broad field known as nanomedicine that is a strategic area at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The area includes research, like hers, looking at the properties of nanopart
|Contact: Tom Rickey|
University of Rochester Medical Center