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Scientists advance safety of nanotechnology
Date:6/10/2009

Scientists have identified for the first time a mechanism by which nanoparticles cause lung damage and have demonstrated that it can be combated by blocking the process involved, taking a step toward addressing the growing concerns over the safety of nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology, the science of the extremely tiny (one nanometre is one-billionth of a metre), is an important emerging industry with a projected annual market of around one trillion US dollars by 2015. It involves the control of atoms and molecules to create new materials with a variety of useful functions, including many that could be exceptionally beneficial in medicine. However, concerns are growing that it may have toxic effects, particularly damage to the lungs. Although nanoparticles have been linked to lung damage, it has not been clear how they cause it.

In a study published online today (Thursday 11 June) in the newly launched Journal of Molecular Cell Biology [1] Chinese researchers discovered that a class of nanoparticles being widely developed in medicine - ployamidoamine dendrimers (PAMAMs) cause lung damage by triggering a type of programmed cell death known as autophagic cell death. They also showed that using an autophagy inhibitor prevented the cell death and counteracted nanoparticle-induced lung damage in mice.

"This provides us with a promising lead for developing strategies to prevent lung damage caused by nanoparticles. Nanomedicine holds extraordinary promise, particularly for diseases such as cancer and viral infections, but safety concerns have recently attracted great attention and with the technology evolving rapidly, we need to start finding ways now to protect workers and consumers from any toxic effects that might come with it," said the study's leader, Dr. Chengyu Jiang, a molecular biologist at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, China.

The first nanomaterial
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Contact: Emma Ross
rosswrite@mac.com
Oxford University Press
Source:Eurekalert

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