Keywords: synthesis, green chemistry, knowledgebase, toxicity, zebrafish, biocompatibility, gold nanoparticles, nanotoxicity, nanotechnology, nanomaterials design, materials design, risk assessment, safety, nanomaterial-biological interactions, exposure effects, biological systems, trust
Proactively designing nanomaterials to enhance performance and minimise hazard
The innovative field of nanotechnology is most likely to benefit society and gain acceptance if environmental and human health considerations are investigated systematically, and those results are used to optimise safety as well as performance. Since nanotechnology fundamentally allows manipulation of matter at the atomic level, toxic interactions could potentially be eliminated by creative design once our knowledge of how nanomaterials interact with biological systems is sufficient. Our approach to the development of benign nanoparticles begins with the synthesis of precisely engineered, high-purity nanoparticle libraries using the principles of green chemistry. Next, evaluations for biocompatibility are performed using a rapid in vivo system (embryonic zebrafish) to assess the biological activity and toxic potential of nanomaterials at multiple levels of biological organisation (i.e., molecular, cellular, systems, organismal). Our iterative testing and redesign strategy utilises information gained from the biological studies to inform the nanomaterial design process until benign products and processes are identified. To make this information more generally available, a knowledgebase of Nanomaterial-Biological Interactions (NBI) is being developed that will offer industry, academia and regulatory agencies a mechanism to rationally inquire for unbiased interpretation of nanomaterial exposure effects in biological systems. Timely evaluation and dissemination of information on nanomaterial-biological interactions will provide much needed data, improve public trust of the nanotechnology industry, and provide nanomaterial designers in academia and industry with information to direct the development of safer nanomaterials and resulting technologies.