The project, called InLiveTox, will be discussed at a major international nanotoxicology conference at Edinburgh Napier University this week - Nanotoxicology 2010.
The three year £2 million ($2.9 million) InLiveTox project brings together leaders in nanotoxicology from around the world, including Edinburgh Napier, to develop a way of testing the toxicity of ingested nanoparticles that doesn’t rely on animals. Instead, a ‘test-tube gut and liver’ will emulate the response of cells and tissues to ingestion of the tiny particles.
The objective of InLiveTox is to develop a novel modular microfluidics-based in vitro test system modeling the response of cells and tissues to the ingestion of nanoparticles. Cell culture models of target tissues such as the GI tract, the liver and the endothelium will be interconnected via a microfluidics system so that knock-on and cross talk effects between organs and tissues can be monitored. The in vitro system will be validated by an in vivo study of nanoparticle toxicity by ingestion in rats carried out in parallel.
New European rules mean that all nanoparticles that could potentially affect humans must be tested by 2018 – raising the prospect of more animal testing.
Nanotechnology, the use of particles a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair, is one of the most important new technologies of the 21st century. It promises new materials with enhanced properties that perform a variety of roles, including cancer treatment in drugs, stain resistance in clothes and preservatives in food. While there are clear benefits, concerns remain about their safe use.
Dr Gary Hutchison, Acting Director of Edinburgh Napier’s Centre for Nano Safety, launched last year, says: “Given the widespread use of nanomaterials in variety of everyday products, it is essential for us to fully understand them and their potential impacts. We are working with other European specialists on the InLiveTox project to develop a viable, effective alternative to using animals in such testing.
“A recent change in European chemical safety legislation means that there is a requirement for information on the toxicity of all materials used in significant quantities by 2018. That means there is pressure to thoroughly investigate how substances affect humans in the long term. Animal testing has long been a way of establishing this but it is highly controversial. It is estimated that 3.9 million animals may be needed to adhere to the regulations. Ideally we want to play a part in reducing that number.”
The European Commission funded test-tube gut and liver project will be more reliable and relevant than alternative options that don’t rely on animal testing. It aims to reduce number of animals that may be needed to adhere to regulations.
The Nanotoxicology 2010 Conference has attracted specialists from the US, Australia, China, Japan, India, Canada and Europe to Scotland’s capital to consider the long term effects of the potential exposure of these materials to humans and the environment. Hosting at Edinburgh Napier University cements Edinburgh’s reputation and expertise in the biotech sector.
The Centre for Nano Safety is part of Edinburgh Napier University’s Institute for Science & Health Innovation. It sees toxicologists working hand in hand with industry towards the safe use and understanding of the impacts of nanomaterials in variety of everyday products from the outset. Edinburgh Napier has just announced an investment of £12m into nine institutes designed to act as one-stop shops for businesses to access expertise, research, facilities and product testing.
NanoToxicology 2010 Conference is being hosted by Edinburgh Napier University 2nd -4th June.
The three year project will be carried out by an interdisciplinary consortium including European leaders in nanotoxicology (Edinburgh Napier University, Universitat des Saarlandes, HelmholtzZentrum Munchen) and engineering (Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique, Universita di Pisa) together with a key American nanotoxicology group (University of Rochester). In addition, the project benefits from the input from an Industrial and Authorities Advisory Group whose members come from the pharmaceutical, cosmetivs, food and household products industries and European regulatory bodies. It is supported by the European Commission through the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. It runs from May 2009 to April 2012.
Edinburgh Napier University Centre for Nano Safety
The Centre for Nano Safety is a multi-disciplinary centre addressing the potential human and environmental effects of nanomaterials, incorporating human and environmental toxicology as well as microbiology. Products containing nanotechnology - components hundreds of times smaller than a human blood cell - are being developed all the time. These products range from electronic gadgets and medicines to food additives and cosmetics, with applications ranging from treatments for cancer to stain resistant clothing.
Contacts and sources:
Craiglockhart Campus, Edinburgh, EH14 1DJ
Telephone: 08452 60 60 40
Telephone: 08452 60 60 40
(* National Science Foundation: see Red Herring (2001): ‘The Biotech Boom: the view from here’
Editor's Note the nanotechnology industry is variously estimated to reach $1 to $5 trillion in value by 2015
The National Science Foundation's current estimate for nanotechnology in 2015 is $1 trillion)