Nano-apples, nano-oranges and a combination of both

an article by our webwriter Marina Vance (follow her on Twitter @marinavance)

When friends and family ask me questions about the safety of nanotechnology, what follows is a conversation more or less like this:

Family member: “Are nanomaterials toxic by nature?”

Me: “It depends, nanomaterials can behave very differently from one another.”

Family member: So, should I avoid products that have nanoparticles?”

Me:Maybe. It depends on the type of nanomaterial, and how you will use the product.

Family member: “But, will or will they not hurt me?”

Me: “Maybe. We don’t have a final answer to that yet, because there might be long-term effects that vary tremendously according to the nanomaterial’s composition, size, shape, and other attributes; like comparing apples and oranges.”

Nanoapples and nanooranges

Did you sense a theme in this conversation? Yes, there is a lot of unhelpful uncertainty. But that is why researchers continue to work on understanding the possible effects of nanomaterials to human health and the environment, while concurrently developing novel applications for this great technology.

In a recently published ESN paper, Dr. Navid Saleh and his colleagues explore the topic of nanohybrids and their relevance to environmental health and safety (EHS).

A nanohybrid is commonly defined as a coupling of two or more types of nanomaterials that (1) integrate the unique properties of each nanomaterial to (2) create novel or enhanced properties, usually caused by the interaction between these nanomaterials. Moreover, combining two or more nanomaterials may result in (3) a novel material that has different physical dimensions in terms of their nano-ness (for example, from being “nano-thin” and “nano-long” to being “nano-structured”).

A good example of a nanohybrid is a combination of titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes, which allow the TiO2 to be activated as a photocatalyst by visible light. Usually, the photocatalytic properties of TiO2 can only be activated by UV light.

Saleh and coleaguesIf nanohybrids have distinct properties from the nanomaterials that originated them, it is fair to wonder about their potential impacts to environmental health and safety (EHS). Can we safely add the known risks of these nano apples and oranges, when we know that the combination of both may generate novel properties?

This perspective paper by Saleh and colleagues proposes a strategy for tackling this complex issue. Hopefuly the nano-EHS community can use this information as a tool to narrow down the plethora of nanohybrid scenarios to focus on those most likely to pose a risk to health and the environment.


To access the full article, download a copy for free* by clicking the link below:

Research strategy to determine when novel nanohybrids pose unique environmental risks
Navid B. Saleh, Nirupam Aich, Jaime Plazas-Tuttle, Jamie R. Lead and Gregory V. Lowry
Environ. Sci.: Nano
, 2015, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/c4en00104d


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About the webwriter

Marina is a PhD research scientist at Virginia Tech and assoc. director of @VTSuN. She is interested in air quality, nanotechnology and human health. You can find more information about her in her website mevance.com.

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* Access is free through a registered RSC account

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Environmental Science: Nano

The benefits of publishing with us

Here is a few reminders of the great benefits of publishing with Environmental Science: Nano:

- Free colour on all figures

- No page charges or limits

- Fast Publication (<100 days on average)

- Wide exposure: free access to all content for the first two years after launch*

- Individual promotion of HOT articles

- Papers processed by peers in the field

- High quality content

- Indexed in ISI

- Free electronic reprints

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- Simple and effective submission process


Submit now!

*ES: Nano was launched in 2014. Access is free through a registered RSC Publishing account.

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Introducing Advisory Board Member, Greg Goss

We are delighted to introduce Greg Goss as an Advisory Board Member for our journal Environmental Science: Nano.

Greg G. Goss
Professor Goss is Research Director of the Office of Environmental Nanosafety at the University of Alberta and works jointly with industry and the National Institute of Nanotechnology on research projects to develop new materials for environmental clean technologies. He is also the Executive Director of the newly forming University of Alberta Water Initiative, providing innovative solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s water problems.

The Goss lab has two primary research interests: comparative physiology and aquatic toxicology. His research focuses on the genomic and proteomic responses of zebrafish to environmental toxins and the development of the zebrafish as a model for use in toxicology.

Greg’s research covers the areas of toxicology and toxigenomics, using a combination of approaches to understanding the mechanism of toxicity of these compounds including advanced microscopy, proteomics and genomics, cellular and whole animal physiology.

Greg’s philosophy:

My research philosophy is to encourage students to learn and research in areas that they find interesting.

Greg G. Goss, Advisory Board Member, Environmental Science: Nano

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Introducing Advisory Board Member, Kenneth A. Dawson

We are delighted to introduce Kenneth A. Dawson as an Advisory Board Member for our journal Environmental Science: Nano.

Kenneth A. Dawson
Kenneth is the Director of the Centre for BioNano Interactions and a lead investigator of the bionanoscience activities in University College Dublin, and Chair of Physical Chemistry.

Professor Dawson’s research interests are focused on the interactions between living systems and nanoparticles. Through the combination of physical chemical approaches with state of the art biological technologies, Prof. Dawson’s research is framing and developing quantitative bionanoscience. Good proof of this fact is one of his projects, aimed to developing a kinetic model of nanoparticle uptake by cells.

Other research interests are protein-nanoparticle interactions, new responsive and smart delivery nanoparticles, or the development of a framework for understanding relationship between gene expression profiles and cancer onset.

Kenneth’s goal:

The long-term goal of my research is the development of a rational framework to understand the interactions of nanoparticles with living systems.

Kenneth A. Dawson, Advisory Board Member, Environmental Science: Nano

Make sure you don’t miss out on the latest journal news by registering your details to receive the regular Environmental Science: Nano e-alerts.

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Special ES: Nano Themed Issue on Nanotoxicology

An open invite from our associate editor Kristin Schirmer and co-guest editor Melanie Auffan

Are you currently doing research in an area of Nanotoxicology?

We propose to publish a unique themed issue of Environmental Science: Nano dedicated to nanotoxicology, which will be published in 2015 with the aim to provide a state-of-the-art synopsis of mechanistic knowledge obtained thus far with regard to the interactions of engineered nanomaterials with organisms in the environment, i.e. aquatic or terrestrial.

The past few years have seen an increase in research aimed at studying the toxicity of nanomaterials to organisms living in the environment. Yet, to this date, many studies are descriptive in nature: they simply report the nominal mass concentrations of nanomaterials that produce a stress response or toxic effect to individual organisms.

Therefore in this issue, we would like to present research aimed at elucidating mechanisms of nanomaterial-organism interactions based on thorough nanomaterial characterization as it presents itself upon exposure to organisms.

Associate editor Kristin Schirmer at EAWAG and co-guest editor Melanie Auffan at CEREGE are encouraging submissions from all areas of nanotoxicology, including:

  • Mechanistic interactions at the environment-organism (cell) barrier.
  • Quantification of cell or organism uptake, distribution and visualization of nanomaterials.
  • Elucidation of adaptive and/or toxic response pathways.
  • Environment–organism –nanomaterial corona.
  • Systemic stress responses (immune function, behaviour and development, and others).
  • Interference with Ecosystem Network Interactions (bioaccumulation and biomagnification, impact on symbiosis, communication and many more).

Submit your paper now!

Submission Deadline: 30th April 2015

You may contribute a Review or a Research paper – the only requirement being that it should be of the highest quality/calibre. Submitted manuscripts need to adhere to Environmental Science: Nano author guidelines, all manuscripts will still be subject to standard peer review procedures and an invitation does not mean automatic acceptance.

For more information on the scope of Environmental Science: Nano and our author guidelines, please visit our website or email us at esnano-rsc@rsc.org

We hope to receive a manuscript from you or your group soon!

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Will nanoparticle uptake in maize plants effect human health?

webwriter Laurel Hamers @arboreal_laurel tells us about recent research on the uptake of zinc nanoparticles by maize plants

As nanoparticles find their way into more products, consumers and scientists alike are concerned about the impact their spread may have on our health. When answering this question, it is important to consider not just our direct interaction with nanoparticles through consumer products that incorporate them, but also the ways they might indirectly make their way into our environment. For instance, nanoparticles in the soil could be taken up by plants that we might later eat.

As a global food staple, maize is an ideal candidate for a comprehensive investigation of this topic. In a recent study published in Environmental Science: Nano, a team of researchers investigated the extent to which maize plants take up zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles—one of the most widely used nanomaterials—and the pathways by which they do so. Their results suggest that ZnO nanoparticles dissolve into Zn2+ ions to make their way into the epidermis and roots of the plants, but rarely translocate to the shoots.

The researchers grew maize hydroponically, adding different concentrations of ZnO nanoparticles or Zn2+ ions to the water. Unsurprisingly, higher concentrations of zinc in the growth medium correlated with higher concentrations of zinc in the plants. The zinc content in the maize plants was virtually identical whether the plants were grown in ZnO solution or Zn2+ solution, suggesting that most ZnO nanoparticles make their way into maize plants by first dissolving into Zn2+, instead of being taken up whole. Zinc taken up by this pathway tended to form phosphate complexes inside the plants, largely preventing it from moving upwards into the shoots.

However, TEM imaging of plants treated with fluorescently labeled ZnO nanoparticles showed that some intact nanoparticles did find their way into the maize plants. These nanoparticles accumulated mostly in the root cortex, occasionally making their way into the vascular tissue. As with the dissolved zinc, though, the zinc oxide nanoparticles were often biotransformed to zinc phosphate and prevented from moving into the shoots.

It seems that in the case of maize, zinc oxide nanoparticles do not directly impact the parts of the plant that we would eat, but excessive accumulation of zinc compounds could potentially affect the plant’s overall health. It is unclear from this study whether the findings can be generalized to interactions between other crops and other types of nanoparticles, or even whether the pathway holds for soil-grown (as opposed to hydroponic) maize plants. Nevertheless, it provides a first step towards a comprehensive understanding of plants’ responses to and defenses against nanoparticles.

To access the full article, download a copy for free* by clicking the link below:

Accumulation, speciation and uptake pathway of ZnO nanoparticles in maize

Jitao Lv, Shuzhen Zhang, Lei Luo, Jing Zhang, Ke Yang and  Peter Christie
DOI: 10.1039/C4EN00064A

Liked this blog post? Read Laurel’s previous entry on how rare earth elements trace nanoparticles through the environment.

* Access is free through a registered RSC account – click here to register

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Nanoceria in our bodies

an article by Marina Vance (follow her on Twitter @marinavance)

Ceria nanoparticles, also known as nanoceria (cerium IV oxide, CeO2) are quickly climbing the nanotechnology popularity ladder.  Ten years ago, there were hardly any academic publications using the term “nanoceria” and now there are dozens of publications per year on the subject. However, the consumer market still only has a couple of products that advertise to contain this nanomaterial.

So, could it be that we are finally getting ahead of the curve in attempting to understand environmental impacts of this nanomaterial before it becomes widely popular?

ES Nano recently published a special themed collection on this interesting nanomaterial, whose main property as a catalyst brings promise for a variety of applications. Two other ES: Nano blog posts have focused on the health effects of nanoceria and its biodistribution in rats.


Nanoceria is a powerful catalyst because its chemical structure shows an oxygen vacancy, so oxygen atoms can move around it while oxidizing and reducing molecules in its vicinity.

It absorbs reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free radicals, which brings a potential cosmetic and medical application. This material also absorbs UV radiation, so it might be used to replace titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in sunscreens in the future.

Since nanoceria has the potential to be a widely used in medical and cosmetic applications, it is pivotal to understand its behavior in biologically relevant environments. A recent paper by Sudipta Seal and colleagues discusses the environmental factors that can alter the properties of nanoceria and thus dictate its behavior in biological systems.

According to the authors, properties such as size, surface chemistry, surface stabilizers of nanoceria may affect its behavior in biological systems, but important issues remain to be addressed: Do slight variations in size and physico-chemical properties dictate fundamentally different behaviors? Are observed variations due to fundamentally different nanoparticles or did those particles undergo transformations? How should particles be appropriately prepared for relevant environmental and toxicology studies?

Although these general questions can be asked about a number of other nanomaterials, they are particularly relevant to nanoceria, since so little is known about this trending and promising material so far.


To access the full article, download a copy for free* by clicking the link below:
Behavior of nanoceria in biologically-relevant environments

Amit Kumar, Soumen Das, Prabhakaran Munusamy, William Self, Donald R. Baer, Dean C. Sayle and Sudipta Seal
Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2014, 1, 516-532
DOI: 10.1039/C4EN00052H

Did you like this article?
Find out more about Marina in her first Environmental Science: Nano blog article on carbon nanotubes
.

* Access is free through a registered RSC account – click here to register

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Nanoceria themed issue

Environmental Science: Nano is proud to present the latest research on the field of nanoceria

We are delighted to introduce our latest themed issue focused on the exciting topic of nanoceria!

This issue contains perspectives from a workshop on nanoceria held last November in California, preceding the Second Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization Conference.

Recognising that there was little communication but controversy among researchers investigating nanocerias’s beneficial and adverse effects, Robert Yokel proposed a workshop to bring together researchers to discuss its yang and yin.

This event was organized and attended by expert researchers actively investigating the beneficial and untoward effects of nanocerias.

Nanoceria is expected to have future application in fuel cells and batteries, and has shown benefit in treating numerous medical conditions that have inflammatory and oxidative injury components.

Robert A. Yokel, Guest Editor
Read his editorial online

This focused issue contains interesting perspectives and original research reports of studies focusing on nanocerias. The aim of this collection has been trying to understand the bases of nanocerias’ divergent effects.

The first part of this issue addresses what we currently know, which are the identified data gaps, and recommends what needs to be determined about the chemical, biological, human health, and environmental aspects of nanoceria.

Previously unpublished results of research studies of nanocerias comprise the second part of this collection.

This collection is the most comprehensive and current source of information on the chemistry, biology, and beneficial and untoward effects of nanocerias.

Robert’s research papers on nanoceria biodistribution and retention in rats and on adverse health perspectives of nanoceria were included in this collection. We would like to thank him for guest editing this tremendously exciting issue.

Read some of the papers included in this remarkable collection for free*:

Tutorial Review:
Exploring the properties and applications of nanoceria: is there still plenty of room at the bottom?
Kenneth Reed, Alastair Cormack, Aniruddha Kulkarni, Mark Mayton, Dean Sayle, Fred Klaessig and Brad Stadler
DOI: 10.1039/C4EN00079J

Critical Review:
Behavior of nanoceria in biologically-relevant environments
Amit Kumar, Soumen Das, Prabhakaran Munusamy, William Self, Donald R. Baer, Dean C. Sayle and Sudipta Seal
DOI: 10.1039/C4EN00052H

Articles:
Effect of cerium oxide nanoparticles on asparagus lettuce cultured in an agar medium
Di Cui, Peng Zhang, Yuhui Ma, Xiao He, Yuanyuan Li, Jing Zhang, Yuechun Zhao and Zhiyong Zhang
DOI: 10.1039/C4EN00025K

Metabolomic effects in HepG2 cells exposed to four TiO2 and two CeO2 nanomaterials
Kirk T. Kitchin, Eric Grulke, Brian L. Robinette and Benjamin T. Castellon
DOI: 10.1039/C4EN00096J

Read the full collection on our website

*Access is free through a registered RSC account – click here to register

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Predicting nanoparticle behaviour in the real world

an article by Paramjeet Pati, PhD Candidate

You and I are not friends, for you are a fish and I am a clam. We are uneasy neighbours. The river water is your playground, the sediment – my sanctuary. If we were living in the Elk River in West Virginia, both of us would have been worried on January 9, 2014. Something changed in the water that day, as crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) poured into the river from a leaky storage tank. Would the MCHM have dissolved in the water or bound to sediment? Which of us would have been in more danger – the resident of the water or the denizen of the sediment?

But you are no fish and I am no clam. So, we could try to answer these questions by doing some batch experiments: Take some sediment sample in a bottle, add some water and MCHM, close the bottle tight and shake it for some time. Then measure the concentrations of MCHM and to figure out whether it loves the water or prefers the sediment. We could also run column experiments: Mix some MCHM in water, flow through a packed column and measure the concentrations at the column inlet and outlet to see how much of the MCHM attaches to the column and how much is still left in water at the outlet.

The information gleaned from these experiments regarding the relative concentrations in the sediment, the water or the packed column, are called fate descriptors. Researchers have calculated fate descriptors for thousands of chemicals to figure out whether they partition into the water or the sediment, or volatilize into the air. Fate descriptors help us predict who faces the greatest danger – the clam, the fish or the dragonfly hovering over the water.

Can we run these batch and column experiments to reliably predict the behaviour of nanoparticles in the environment? The concept of fate descriptors calculated from batch and column experiments was established for molecular chemicals.

But nanoparticles have distinctly different properties and do not behave as single molecules. The use of some previously established fate descriptors to predict the environmental fate and transport of nanoparticles has come under criticism.

In a recent perspective article, Dr. Geert Cornelis has discussed the challenges in developing environmentally relevant fate descriptors for nanoparticles. In the same vein, at the 3rd Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization Conference, Dr. Mark Wiesner and Dr. Greg Lowry stressed on the need to develop functional assays that provide nano-specific fate descriptors.

Like the batch and column experiments, these functional assays need to be operationally simple and of relatively short duration. Indeed, as mentioned in in the perspective article, “[t]he most appropriate method is most likely a compromise between technical accuracy and operational simplicity…”.

You can read more about these challenges and potential solutions in the full article for free*:
“Fate descriptors for engineered nanoparticles: the good, the bad, and the ugly”
Geert Cornelis
Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2015, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C4EN00122B

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About the webwriter

Paramjeet Pati is a PhD Candidate at the Virginia Tech Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (@VTSuN).
You can find more articles by him in the VTSuN blog, where he writes using the name
coffeemug.

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*Access is free through a registered RSC account – click here to register

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Introducing Advisory Board Member, Rajender S. Varma

We are delighted to introduce Rajender S. Varma as an Advisory Board Member for our journal Environmental Science: Nano.

Rajender S. Varma
Raj is a Senior Scientist in the Sustainable Technology Division of the US Environmental Protection Agency in Cincinnati.

Raj’s research expertise covers a number of multi-disciplinary topics, including development of environmentally benign synthetic methods and chemical protocols using alternate energy input. He is also an expert in greener synthesis of nanomaterials and nanocomposites and their applications in catalysis, as well as in sustainable remediation of hazardous pollutants

His long term goals are to contribute broad expertise in chemistry to evaluate novel and safer environmental protocols in industrial chemistry and its impact in human health and environmental sciences.

Raj’s passion:

I have a passion for research, especially for a sustainable way of thinking to address research problems.

Rajender S. Varma, Advisory Board Member, Environmental Science: Nano

Make sure you don’t miss out on the latest journal news by registering your details to receive the regular Environmental Science: Nano e-alert.

Follow us on Twitter @ESNano_RSC.

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