Novel Specific Response Mechanisms for Nanoparticle Exposure


A novel response mechanism specific to exposure to nanoparticles that is common to several species has been discovered by scientists.

A novel response mechanism specific to exposure to nanoparticles that is common to several species has been discovered by scientists.

Image Credit: HaHanna/

By examining a large body of data regarding molecular responses to nanomaterials, they have uncovered ancestral epigenetic defense mechanisms that describe how different species, from humans to simpler creatures, would adapt to this kind 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 group from Finland, Poland, Ireland, Cyprus, South Africa, UK , Greece, and Estonia—including Associate Professor Vladimir Lobaskin from UCD School of Physics, University College Dublin, Ireland.

The study entitled, “Ancestral molecular responses to particulate nanomaterials” is reported in Natural Nanotechnology journal in May 2023.

We have demonstrated for the first time that there is a specific response to nanoparticles, and this 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..

Dario Greco, Professor and Director, Finland Hub for the Development and Validation of Integrated Approaches, Tampere University

Systems Biology Meets Nanoinformatics

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

Lobaskin stated, “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 are usually unknown to biologists and toxicologists but need to understand what we should be afraid of when exposed to nanomaterials..”

In the last ten years, a mechanism-aware toxicity assessment strategy has been adopted by OECD countries relying on Adverse Outcome Pathway analysis that fixes causal relationships between biological events as a result of disease or negative effects in populations.

Once Adverse Outcome Pathways are identified, people can trace the chain of biological events back to their origin — the molecular triggering events that activate the cascade.

Attempts at statistical analysis of toxicological data in recent years have not been successful in determining which nanomaterial properties are responsible for the adverse results.

The problem is that the material characteristics offered 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, proposes a sophisticated set of descriptors of nanomaterials, using computational materials science, where essential, to understand the interactions of nanoparticles with biological molecules and networks and enable the estimation of molecular structures. start the event.

Such sophisticated descriptors have the potential to offer the missing bits of information and include material dissolution rates, surface atomic polarity, molecular interaction energies, shape, aspect ratio, hydrophobic indicators, amino acids, or lipid binding energy—as well as anything that could lead to functional impairment. normal cells or tissues.

Associate Professor Lobaskin and collaborators at the UCD Soft Matter Modeling Lab have collaborated on the characterization of in silico materials and assessing descriptors connected to the potential of nanoparticles at risk.

In the analysis presented in this new Nature Nanotechnology paper, we can for the first time see similarities between various ingredients associated with health risks at the molecular level.

Vladimir Lobaskin, Associate Professor, UCD School of Physics, Research and Innovation

Lobaskin added, “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. prior to production to ensure safe and sustainable design.”



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