Nanotechnologies are everywhere, from the medicines we take to the food we eat and the sporting equipment we use, but what do we really know about the potential effects when they come into contact with complex matrices and how do we ensure that nanoproducts are safe?
The global market for nanomaterials is estimated by the European Commission to be 11 million tonnes at a market value of €20 billion, and products underpinned by nanotechnology are forecast to grow from a global volume of €200 billion in 2009 to €2 trillion by 2015.
We know that the properties of nanomaterials can change significantly when they are used in complex matrices, such as biological systems, potentially affecting functionality and behaviour. It is these changes that are exploited in nanobiotechnology or nanomedical applications. For example, in some therapeutic applications, protein coated nanoparticles (apolipoprotein E coatings) can target specific locations, such as the brain.
However, there may be other currently unknown biological interactions which could pose a potential risk to human health. These risks are compounded by a lack of robust methods to characterise nanomaterials in complex biological matrices.
In a recent article in Drug Discovery & Development magazine, we explore the legislation that has been introduced in the EU that focuses on nanomaterials and the implications that these have for the nanobiotechnology or nanomedical industries. We outline LGC’s work on the development of methods to characterise nanomaterials for their physical, chemical and optical properties in biological matrices in support of research aiming to understand how nanoparticles interact with biological systems. This three-year multi-national project, ‘Chemical and Optical Characterisation of Nanomaterials in Biological Systems’ (NanoChOp), finished in May.
Visit the Drug Discovery & Development magazine website to read the article.