A new method has been developed by researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) which is being called a huge step forward in the safety screening of nanomaterials, according to researchers.
Nanomaterials are used in everyday consumer products with economic forecasts predicting that the industry will grow into a into $1 trillion business in the next few years. They are found in products such as sunscreens, cosmetics and paints to textiles and solar batteries, but recent scientific research has questioned the safety of these materials.
There are several elements that could potentially cause harm to humans and animals, as well as the environment, which is why quick testing of the materials is essential in order for researchers to uncover the potential hazards and take appropriate preventative action.
As a solution to this, researchers at UCLA have developed a novel screening technology which can asses large batches of metal-oxide nanomaterials quickly, and can identify their ability to trigger certain biological responses in cells as a result of their semiconductor properties. The research is published in the journal ACS Nano.
The researchers found that semiconducting metal-oxide nanomaterials can have an electron-transfer effect when they come into contact with human cells that contain electronically active molecules. This could lead to highly reactive oxygen molecules that damage cells, triggering acute inflammation in the lungs of exposed humans and animals.
They created a band-gap hypothesis that can be used to test the safety in nanomaterials. Senior author Dr. Andre Nel, chief of the division of nanomedicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said:"The ability to make such predictions, starting with cells in a test tube, and extrapolating the results to intact animals and humans exposed to potentially hazardous metal oxides, is a huge step forward in the safety screening of nanomaterials."