The International Council on Nanotechnology

Multi-walled nanotubes and mesothelioma: A second study

A paper just released today in Nature Nanotechnology links certain multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNT) to a disease caused by exposure to asbestos. This is the second paper in the last three months to explore whether certain MWNT conform to the fiber paradigm which links exposure to long, stiff fibers to serious diseases of the mesothelium. The latest study, carried out by a group in the UK, uses much smaller doses of MWNT than the Japanese paper and compares the effects of long straight MWNT to short tangled MWNT. The Nature Nanotechnology paper finds that the long straight nanotubes induce inflammation and formation of granulomas with "asbestos-like pathogenic behaviour". The response was similar to that induced by long-fiber amosite, a type of asbestos. A non-fibrous nanoparticulate carbon black sample was run as a control and did not show the same effect as the fibers.

More information about both these papers, as well as commentaries by experts in the area, can be found in the latest ICON Backgrounder.

Multi-walled nanotubes and mesothelioma

In February a paper came out in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences that linked multi-walled carbon nanotubes to mesothelioma, a serious form of cancer. ICON has prepared some backgrounder materials on this subject, which include commentaries from the authors, the manufacturer of the MWNTs used in the study as well as several independent experts. Check out the site and come back here to leave your comments.

Towards Predicting Nano-Biointeractions

Today, the International Council on Nanotechnology released the findings of two workshops designed to identify the research needed to predict nanomaterial impacts on living systems and the environment. This represents the first effort to tackle the grand challenge of predicting nanomaterial impacts on human health and the environment.

World-renowned experts in nanomaterial synthesis and characterization worked side-by-side with their counterparts in toxicology and environmental impacts to develop a prioritized agenda for predicting nanomaterials' biological and environmental impacts.

The breadth of expertise at these workshops was astonishing. But bringing together diverse experts to work on shared challenges is standard operating procedure for ICON.

A sampling of the findings of the 79-page report includes:
  • Tools and models must be developed that can describe the dynamic nature of nanomaterials throughout their lifestyle.

  • A set of screening tools is needed to correlate the functional properties of nanomaterials with their potential for biological interaction.

  • Exposure assessment studies are needed to lead to predictions about physicochemical properties and their implications for net dose.
  • Quantitative models are needed to describe how the physicochemical properties of nanoparticles control the nature and extent of biomolecular interactions at their surface.
  • Dose and dose rate may need to be validated independently for nanomaterials.
  • Specific research designed to develop better biomarkers, or sets of biomarkers, is essential to address the vast diversity of nanoparticle types and to develop strong correlative models for predicting in vivo data based on in vitro results.

Here's what some people are saying about the report:

Professor Vicki Colvin, Executive Director, ICON:
"The systematic approach taken in these workshops will provide a solid foundation for further research, enable risk management and guide commercial development."

Dr. Andrew Maynard, Chief Science Advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies and member of ICON's Executive Committee:
"The broad participation in these workshops represents the kind of decision-making process that is essential to determining how nanotechnology can be used safely."

Dr. Sally Tinkle, Senior Science Advisor to the Acting Director at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health:
"Independent efforts such as this one add tremendous value to the work we’re doing at the governmental level. The ICON report provides a detailed roadmap for addressing a specific grand challenge and can inform the federal strategy."

Dr. Gérard Rivière, President of the European Committee for Standardization and Research:
"These workshops demonstrated an impressive commitment to international cooperation and harmonization, especially considering the collective necessity to develop and use standardized materials and reference methods operational at the nanoscale. Such broad engagement will be vital to addressing nanotechnology’s impacts in the future."

Intel: Paolo Gargini, Intel Fellow and Director of Technology Strategy: (pdf)
"Intel supports the broad communication of this report to enable prioritization of international research nanotechnology. While companies and countries will compete in the commercialization of nanotech in the area of EHS, cooperative and collaborative research should be the cornerstone."

There are many outstanding challenges and a healthy skepticism about the value of predictive modeling, so let's hear it:

What do you think are the most pressing challenges for nanotechnology?