University investigates nanotechnology safety

31 March 2017

Dr Wojciech Chrzanowski has delivered a talk on the way the University is addressing the safety of nanoparticles

The Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST) is investigating the safety of nanoparticles used in everything from foods to medicine.

AINST – which launched last year with the opening of its headquarters the $150m Sydney Nanoscience Hub – is the University of Sydney's latest step in the creation of flexible, interdisciplinary institutes devoted to bringing the best people and infrastructure together in the support of frontier research.

Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy, Dr Wojciech Chrzanowski this week delivered a lunchtime lecture at AINST on the many uses of nanoparticles and testing frameworks to assess their safety.

“Human and environmental exposure to nanomaterials is inevitable and nanoparticles are used in very common products including food, baby formulas, packaging, cosmetics, tattoo inks, toiletries and pharmaceuticals,” says Dr Chrzanowski, the Health and Medicine Theme Leader at the AINST and an expert in the safety of nanoparticles.

“Although we can point to many benefits of nanoparticles, such as targeted drug delivery, significant concerns include increasing rates of dementia, auto-immune diseases, eczema, asthma and autism in children, for which the cause is not well understood but could be linked to the exposure to nanoparticles.”

Despite possible links to many health conditions, Dr Chrzanowski says more research needs to be done on exposure to very low levels of nanoparticles.

“As Paracelsus said: "Poison is in everything, and nothing’s without poison." The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy. This is especially true for nanoparticles because the possible harms posed by them are poorly understood due to a lack of detailed data and their only recent emergence,” he says.

Dr Chrzanowski and his lab are aiming to form a framework for nanotoxicity testing that can be used in the future to guide safer-by-design drug formulations, food products and cosmeceuticals.

“The findings from our work will form a framework for the nanotoxicity screening to inform regulatory agencies and reduce exposure to nanoparticles that may contribute to both acute and chronic diseases. This new knowledge on nanoparticle toxicity will be vital in establishing the evidence and mechanisms behind cellular toxicity,” he says.

“This project will address an unmet regulatory need that could ultimately reduce nano-specific risks of our food, while it will pave the way for a more sustainable nanotechnology industry.”

Newly appointed AINST Director, Professor Susan Pond said:

“I am seeking to move the University towards the leading edge of multidisciplinary research in nanoscience.

“This will create the opportunity for the University to lead national or even international research centres of excellence while at the same time enhancing its educational curriculum.”

Elliott Richardson

Assistant Media Advisor (Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy)

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