Nanoparticles’ random walk has implications for nanotoxicology

It is well known that the physical and chemical properties of nanoparticles are highly dependent upon a range of parameters – their size, shape, surface properties, embedded solvents, and the way that they were prepared and purified.
As Xu points out, their chemical and physical properties will surely affect their interactions with living organisms, and define their biocompatibility and toxicity in given living organisms. “Therefore, it will be misleading if one tries to compare the study of one type of nanoparticles in one living organism with other types of nanoparticles in other living organisms” she says.
To overcome the limitations of current nanotoxicity studies, Xu’s team have developed three important components for such studies:
– new methods to prepare stable (non-aggregated) and purified model nanoparticles (e.g., different sizes and surface functional groups of gold and silver nanoparticles);
– real-time imaging tools (e.g., DFOMS) for characterizing the size of individual nanoparticles in vivo in real-time; and
– effective in vivo assays (zebrafish embryos) for screening and probing the biocompatibility and toxicity of model nanoparticles, aiming to depict the dependence of biocompatibility and toxicity of nanoparticles on their physical and chemical properties, and their underlying mechanisms.
“We found gold nanoparticles in various parts of normally developed zebrafish,” says Xu. “Together with the strong variations in diffusion coefficients, these interesting findings suggest that the random diffusion of gold nanoparticles in embryos during their development might have led to uncertain effects on embryonic development.”
The team is already working on further probing what causes the embryos to become normally developed, deformed or dead zebrafish, as they are incubated with nanoparticles.

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