Tuesday, 22 July 2014
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Nanoparticle research

A new £1m UK study will analyse the levels at which nanoparticles can be deemed safe within biological cells.

The funds were awarded to researchers at Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth by the EPSRC’s Nanoscience through Engineering to Application cross-council programme.

The funding is part of a larger £1.4m research grant to Swansea University and collaborators at the Institute of Materials Research at Leeds University who are developing techniques to accurately measure the nanoparticle dose delivered to biological cells, track the dose dilution as cells reproduce and provide vital information for researchers studying any potential toxic responses.

Huw Summers, lead researcher and chair in nanotechnology for health at Swansea University, said current practice in the assessment of toxic dose uses bulk solution measures such as millilitres per gram to determine correct dosages rather than the fundamental measure of particle number.

‘As the size of nanoparticles can vary significantly, some being as small as a protein molecule, determining optimal dosages for use in healthcare and beauty products such as sunscreens or cell-based diagnostics will be crucial,’ he said.

Summers explained the Swansea researchers are using fluorescent nanocrystals known as quantum dots as optical markers within living cells to give an individual signal relating to cell generation.

Cell interactions are quantified within the biological environment through optics-based experiments and computational simulations.

Summers said this will provide vital information about how the dose evolves as cells divide and nanoparticles are passed onto future cell generations.

He added that the technique will also enable researchers to test nanoparticles before they are introduced, reintroduced or implanted in the body.

The project research team will comprise 11 researchers, six academic investigators, three postdoctoral researchers and two PhD students.


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