18 October 2006

Casting a critical eye over the environmental and human safety of nanotechnology to assist responsible product design is the aim of a new Challenge Project at UQ’s AIBN.

According to team leader Dr Darren Martin, toxicological evaluation of nanoparticles and nanostructures does more than fulfil our social responsibility to be aware of the implications of our research.

It also advances the field of nanomedicine by providing information about undesirable properties and how to avoid them, and "makes good business sense" in terms of sustainability and safety.

“Research of this nature offers early identification of potential safety issues, providing safer products for the public, but also avoiding development of products that might not be marketable,” Dr Martin said.

“Establishing robust techniques to provide industry and regulators with scientifically valid data may also help to grant industry a competitive edge for bringing new nanoproducts to market.”

The project will study the nanotoxicology of carbon nanotubes, layered double hydroxides and synthetic hectorites to develop assays that will give a quantitative determination of the distribution, accumulation and retention over various exposure intervals.

Products or developing technologies currently employing nanoparticles include catalysts, water decontamination absorbents, biomaterials, cosmetics, toothpastes and paint additives.

Dr Martin said the size, shape, and purity of the same nanoscale particle or molecule could have vastly different biological responses.

“Many traditional assessment approaches for particle toxicology do not apply to nanoscale particles because of their very high surface area, their limitations in traceability, and their poorly-understood interactions with biomolecules, cells and tissues,” he said.

AIBN Director Professor Peter Gray said the project offered much in the development of new, reliable and sensitive methods to determine nanoparticle migration and toxicology without affecting the structure or biofunctionality of the nanoparticle.

“The real strength of this project is the unique assembly of disciplines, institutes and industry, all well placed to perform toxicology research and development,” he said.

“This collaborative project incorporates the expertise of Professor Rod Minchin (TetraQ), Dr Suzanne Smith from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Dr Kathleen Carrado from the Argonne National Labs in the US, and Dr Gordon Xu and Dr Kayleen Campbell from AIBN.”

The $70 million building housing the AIBN (Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology) will officially open at the UQ St Lucia campus on Monday, October 23.

MEDIA: for more information contact
Dr Darren Martin, AIBN Ph: 07 3365 4176
Professor Rod Minchin, TetraQ Ph: 07 3365 1894
Dr Suzanne Smith, ANSTO Ph: 02 9717 3125