Nano (Geno) Toxicology

Finding the appropriate balance between applying nanomaterials to enhance current technology, whilst simultaneously considering their safety, is vital to the success of any new development, particularly those destined for applications in healthcare.

The Centre is fully equipped to evaluate the cytotoxicity and DNA damaging potential (genotoxicity) of engineered nanomaterials, the mechanisms that are responsible for cellular damage following exposure and subsequent consequences on human health.

What sets nanomaterials apart from more traditional chemical or pharmaceutical compounds with respect to safety testing is that thorough physical and chemical characterisation of the test material is vital because these parameters govern biological interactions. The success of nano(geno)toxicological assessment is therefore reliant on a multi-disciplinary team with physical, engineering and toxicological expertise, which is what makes this work possible in the Centre for NanoHealth.

The Centre houses a dedicated tissue culture laboratory for all toxic handling based work. This, in turn, is directly linked to state-of-the-art molecular biology and cell imaging laboratories. Systems such as the IN Cell Analyser, Axio Imager with Metafer software and flow cytometers are available, which enable automation of classical safety testing assays. This equipment therefore provides high throughput (geno)toxicity testing to define detailed dose-response relationships required for risk assessment.

In addition, this facility provides all the necessary technology and expertise to facilitate complete physico-chemical characterisation of the nanomaterials under study, an essential requirement for the safety evaluation of engineered nanomaterials.

An obstacle becoming increasingly evident is that traditional (geno)toxicological assays have been standardised and optimised for chemical compounds and it cannot be assumed that nanomaterials can be tested in the same way. Consequently, the Nano(geno)toxicology research group at the Centre for NanoHealth has established the most suitable experimental protocols to assess the (geno)toxicity of nanomaterials. These assays have since been implemented in evaluating the safety and biocompatibility of engineered nanomaterials as a function of their physico-chemical features.