Predicting how nanoparticles will react in the human body

Aug 15, 2010

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a method for predicting the ways nanoparticles will interact with biological systems - including the human body. Their work could have implications for improved human and environmental safety in the handling of nanomaterials, as well as applications for drug delivery.

NC State researchers Dr. Jim Riviere, Burroughs Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and director of the university's Center for Chemical Toxicology Research and Pharmacokinetics, Dr. Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, professor of investigative dermatology and toxicology, and Dr. Xin-Rui Xia, research assistant professor of pharmacology, wanted to create a method for the biological characterization of nanoparticles - a screening tool that would allow other scientists to see how various nanoparticles might react when inside the body.

"We wanted to find a good, biologically relevant way to determine how react with cells," Riviere says. "When a nanomaterial enters the human body, it immediately binds to various proteins and amino acids. The molecules a particle binds with will determine where it will go."

This binding process also affects the particle's behavior inside the body. According to Monteiro-Riviere, the amino acids and proteins that coat a nanoparticle change its shape and surface properties, potentially enhancing or reducing characteristics like toxicity or, in medical applications, the particle's ability to deliver drugs to targeted cells.

To create their screening tool, the team utilized a series of chemicals to probe the surfaces of various nanoparticles, using techniques previously developed by Xia. A nanoparticle's size and surface characteristics determine the kinds of materials with which it will bond. Once the size and surface characteristics are known, the researchers can then create "fingerprints" that identify the ways that a particular particle will interact with biological molecules. These fingerprints allow them to predict how that nanoparticle might behave once inside the body.

The study results appear in the Aug. 23 online edition of Nature Nanotechnology.

"This information will allow us to predict where a particular nanomaterial will end up in the , and whether or not it will be taken up by certain cells," Riviere adds. "That in turn will give us a better idea of which may be useful for drug delivery, and which ones may be hazardous to humans or the environment."

Explore further: Nanocontainers for nanocargo: Delivering genes and proteins for cellular imaging, genetic medicine and cancer therapy

More information: "An index for characterization of nanomaterials in biological systems", Xin-Rui Xia, Nancy A. Monteiro-Riviere and Jim E. Riviere, NC State University
Published: Online in Aug. 15, 2010, Nature Nanotechnology

Related Stories

Where do nanomaterials go in the body?

Nov 02, 2009

Tiny, engineered nanomaterials can already be found in many consumer products, and have been hailed as having widespread future uses in areas ranging from medicine to industrial processes. However, little is known about what ...

New ORNL process brings nanoparticles into focus

Jun 23, 2008

Scientists can study the biological impacts of engineered nanomaterials on cells within the body with greater resolution than ever because of a procedure developed by researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National ...

Scientists Quantify Nanoparticle-Protein Interactions

Jan 13, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A research team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology has quantified the interaction of gold nanoparticles with important proteins found in human blood, an approach that should ...

Pack 'Em In -- Gold Nanoparticles Improve Gene Regulation

Feb 23, 2009

Investigators at Northwestern University have found that packing small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules onto the surface of a gold nanoparticle can protect siRNAs from degradation and increase their ability to regulate genes ...

Recommended for you

For electronics beyond silicon, a new contender emerges

14 hours ago

Silicon has few serious competitors as the material of choice in the electronics industry. Yet transistors, the switchable valves that control the flow of electrons in a circuit, cannot simply keep shrinking ...

Making quantum dots glow brighter

16 hours ago

Researchers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of Oklahoma have found a new way to control the properties of quantum dots, those tiny chunks of semiconductor material that glow ...

The future face of molecular electronics

17 hours ago

The emerging field of molecular electronics could take our definition of portable to the next level, enabling the construction of tiny circuits from molecular components. In these highly efficient devices, ...

User comments : 0