Nanotechnology Project

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Environment, Health and Safety Research

A Rapid In Vivo System for Determining Toxicity of Manufactured Nanomaterials

Project Information

Principal InvestigatorRobert L. Tanguay
InstitutionOregon State University
Project URLView
Relevance to ImplicationsHigh
Class of NanomaterialEngineered Nanomaterials
Impact SectorCross-cutting
Broad Research Categories Exposure
Risk Assessment
NNI identifierb3-1

Funding Information

Anticipated Total Funding$400,000.00
Annual Funding$133,333.33
Funding SourceEPA
Funding Mechanism
Funding SectorGovernment
Start Year2006
Anticipated End Year2009


Objective: Rapid growth of the nanotechnology industry is resulting in increased exposure of humans and the environment to nanomaterials prior to the scientific investigation of potential risks. It is clear that there is a need to develop rapid, relevant and efficient testing strategies to assess these emerging materials of concern. Here we propose an in vivo system for rapidly assessing the toxicity of nanomaterials at multiple levels of biological organization (i.e. molecular, cellular, systems, organismal). Early developmental life stages are often uniquely sensitive to environmental insult, due in part to the enormous changes in cellular differentiation, proliferation and migration required to form the required cell types, tissues and organs. Molecular signaling underlies all of these processes. Most toxic responses result from disruption of proper molecular signaling, thus, early developmental life stages are perhaps the ideal life stage to determine if chemicals or nanomaterials are toxic. Our hypothesis is that the inherent properties of some engineered nanomaterials make them potentially toxic. To test this hypothesis we specifically propose to (1) further develop our in vivo zebrafish toxicity assay to define the in vivo responses to nanomaterials, and (2) begin to define structural properties of nanomaterials that lead to adverse biological consequences. Approach: We propose a three-tier approach exploiting the advantages of the embryonic zebrafish model to assess the toxicity of nanomaterials. Tier 1: Rapid screening experiments will be conducted to assess the toxicity of a wide range of structurally well-characterized nanomaterials commercially available or produced by researchers of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI). Nanomaterials found to elicit significant adverse effects will proceed to Tier 2 testing. Tier 2: Potential cellular targets and modes of action will be defined in vivo using a suite of transgenic fluorescent zebrafish and indicators of cellular oxidative state. Nanomaterials will be grouped according to structural indices and effects. Representative nanomaterials from each group will be selected for Tier 3 testing. Tier 3: Global gene expression profiles will be used to define the genomic responses to nanomaterials. Data from these studies will be used to define structure-activity relationships using a Nanomaterials Effects Database we have created to collate, organize and analyze data on nanomaterial effects across species and exposure scenarios. Expected Results: The successful completion of these studies will fill important gaps in our understanding of the human health risk posed by exposure to nanomaterials. The proposed research will deliver (1) a validated in vivo system for rapidly assessing existing and future novel nanomaterials, and (2) data on nanomaterial structure effects relationships.