New research on the molecular response to nanoparticles unveils the power of nanoinformatics


May 29, 2023

(Nanowerk News) Researchers have discovered a new response mechanism specific to exposure to nanoparticles that is common in many species. By analyzing a large dataset regarding molecular response to nanomaterials, they have uncovered ancestral epigenetic defense mechanisms that explain how various species, from humans to simpler creatures, adapt to this type of exposure.

This project was led by Doctoral Researcher Giusy del Giudice and Professor Dario Greco at the Finnish Hub for Development and Validation of Integrated Approaches (FHAIVE), University of Tampere, Finland, in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team from Finland, Ireland, Poland, UK, Cyprus, South Africa , Greece and Estonia – including Associate Professor Vladimir Lobaskin from the UCD School of Physics, University College Dublin, Ireland.

This paper is published in Natural Nanotechnology (“Ancestral molecular responses to particulate nanomaterials”).

FHAIVE Director Professor Greco said: “We have shown for the first time that there is a specific response to nanoparticles, and that is related to their nanoscale properties. This study sheds light on how different species respond to particles in similar ways. It proposes a solution to the one-chemical-one-signature problem, which currently limits the use of toxicogenomics in chemical safety assessments.”

Systems Biology meets Nanoinformatics

Associate Professor Vladimir Lobaskin, who is an expert in nanostructured biosystems, said: “In this large collaborative work, the team led by the University of Tampere and including the UCD School of Physics found not only general responses to nanoparticles in all types of organisms from plants. and invertebrates in humans, but also the general features of nanomaterials that trigger those responses.”

He said: “Tens of thousands of new nanomaterials reach the consumer market every year. It is an enormous task to screen them all for possible adverse effects to protect the environment and human health. It could be lung damage when we inhale dust, release of toxic ions by dust particles, production of reactive oxygen species, or binding of cell membrane lipids by nanoparticles. In other words, it all starts with relatively simple physical interactions on the surface of nanoparticles that biologists and toxicologists usually don’t know about, but need to understand what we should be afraid of when exposed to nanomaterials.”

In the last decade, OECD countries have adopted a mechanism-aware toxicity assessment strategy based on Adverse Outcome Pathway analysis that establishes causal links between biological events that cause disease or negative effects in populations. Once Adverse Outcome Pathways are determined, one can trace the chain of biological events back to their origin – the initial molecular event that triggers the cascade.

Attempts at statistical analysis of toxicological data in recent years have failed to identify the nanomaterial properties that are responsible for the adverse results. The problem is that material characteristics that are usually provided by manufacturers, such as nanoparticle chemistry and size distribution, are too basic and insufficient to make reasonable predictions about their biological activity.

The previous work, co-authored by the UCD School of Physics team, suggested a collection of advanced descriptors of nanomaterials, using computational materials science where necessary, to understand nanoparticle interactions with molecules and biological networks and enable predictions of the initiating molecules. program. These sophisticated descriptors can provide missing pieces of information and include material dissolution rates, polarity of surface atoms, energy of molecular interactions, shape, aspect ratio, hydrophobic indicators, binding energies of amino acids or lipids – as well as anything that could cause disruption of normal cell or tissue function .

Associate Professor Lobaskin and colleagues at the UCD Soft Matter Modeling Lab have been working on the characterization of in silico materials and evaluating descriptors that correlate with the harmful potential of nanoparticles.

He said: “In the analysis presented recently Natural Nanotechnology paper, we were able to see for the first time the similarities between various ingredients associated with health risks at the molecular level. This publication is the first demonstration of the power of nanoinformatics, a new research area expanding ideas from cheminformatics and bioinformatics, and also great promise: using computer-generated digital twinning materials will soon allow us to screen and optimize new materials for safety and even functionality. before production to make them safe and sustainable by design.”


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