Gold Nanoparticles Accelerate Aging : “found in everyday items such as personal care products”

Nanoparticles Found in Everyday Items Can Inhibit Fat Storage: Gold Nanoparticles Accelerate Aging

New research reveals that pure gold nanoparticles found in everyday items such as personal care products, as well as drug delivery, MRI contrast agents and solar cells can inhibit adipose (fat) storage and lead to accelerated aging and wrinkling, slowed wound healing and the onset of diabetes. (Credit: © Sandor Kacso / Fotolia)

Apr. 18, 2013 — New research reveals that pure gold nanoparticles found in everyday items such as personal care products, as well as drug delivery, MRI contrast agents and solar cells can inhibit adipose (fat) storage and lead to accelerated aging and wrinkling, slowed wound healing and the onset of diabetes. The researchers, led by Tatsiana Mironava, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Molecular Engineering at Stony Brook University, detail their research in the journal Nanotoxicology.

Together with co-author Dr. Marcia Simon, Professor of Oral Biology and Pathology at Stony Brook University, and Director of the University’s Living Skin Bank, a world-class facility that has developed skin tissue for burn victims and various wound therapies, the researchers tested the impact of nanoparticles in vitro on multiple types of cells, including adipose (fat) tissue, to determine whether their basic functions were disrupted when exposed to very low doses of nanoparticles. Subcutaneous adipose tissue acts as insulation from heat and cold, functions as a reserve of nutrients, and is found around internal organs for padding, in yellow bone marrow and in breast tissue.

They discovered that the human adipose-derived stromal cells — a type of adult stem cells — were penetrated by the gold nanoparticles almost instantly and that the particles accumulated in the cells with no obvious pathway for elimination. The presence of the particles disrupted multiple cell functions, such as movement; replication (cell division); and collagen contraction; processes that are essential in wound healing.

According to the researchers, the most disturbing finding was that the particles interfered with genetic regulation, RNA expression and inhibited the ability to differentiate into mature adipocytes or fat cells. “Reductions caused by gold nanoparticles can result in systemic changes to the body,” said Professor Mironava. “Since they have been considered inert and essentially harmless, it was assumed that pure gold nanoparticles would also be safe. Evidence to the contrary is beginning to emerge.”

This study is also the first to demonstrate the impact of nanoparticles on adult stem cells, which are the cells our body uses for continual organ regeneration. It revealed that adipose derived stromal cells involved in regeneration of multiple organs, including skin, nerve, bone, and hair, ignored appropriate cues and failed to differentiate when exposed to nanoparticles. The presence of gold nanoparticles also reduced adiponectin, a protein involved in regulating glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown, which helps to regulate metabolism.

“We have learned that careful consideration and the choice of size, concentration and the duration of the clinical application of gold nanoparticles is warranted,” said Professor Mironava. “The good news is that when the nanoparticles were removed, normal functions were eventually restored.”

“Nanotechnology is continuing to be at the cutting edge of science research and has opened new doors in energy and materials science,” said co-author, Miriam Rafailovich, PhD, Chief Scientist of the Advanced Energy Center and Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook. “Progress comes with social responsibility and ensuring that new technologies are environmentally sustainable. These results are very relevant to achieving these goals.”

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) and Polymer Programs, was a collaboration of Stony Brook University and New York State Stem Cell Science (NYSTEM). The paper was also co-authored by Michael Hadjiargyrou, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Life Sciences at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) and former Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook.


Nano-safety studies urged in China

Exposure surveys and stronger regulations are required for the industry to thrive, researchers say.

18 September 2012 Beijing
Nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, are coming under safety scrutiny in China.PASIEKA/SPL

Here is a recipe for anxiety: take China’s poorly enforced chemical-safety regulations, add its tainted record on product safety and stir in the uncertain risks of a booming nanotechnology industry.

As an antidote to this uneasy mixture, the country should carry out more-extensive safety studies and improve regulatory oversight of synthetic nanomaterials, leading Chinese researchers said at the 6th International Conference on Nanotoxicology in Beijing this month. “This is the only way to maintain the competitiveness of China’s nanotechnology sector,” says Zhao Yuliang, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ National Center for Nano­science and Technology (NCNST) in Beijing. “We certainly don’t want safety issues to become a trade barrier for nano-based products.”

China’s investment in nanotechnology has grown rapidly during the past decade, and its tally of patent applications in the field has surpassed those of Europe and the United States (see ‘Patent boom’). But only 3% of the investment is used for safety studies, says Zhao, compared with about 6% of federal nanotechnology funding in the United States. “The situation must be changed soon,” he says.

Nanoparticles — which measure from 1 to 100 nanometres in diameter — are chemically different from their corresponding bulk mat­erials, and their potential toxicity can vary according to dozens of characteristics, such as size, surface area and coating.

In 2009, researchers claimed that nano­particles were responsible for lung damage in seven workers at a printing factory in Beijing, two of whom subsequently died (see Nature 460, 937; 2009). Volatile organic compounds may actually have been to blame, says Andre Nel, a nanotoxicologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, but such incidents could easily damage the fledgling industry’s reputation. For now, however, the Chinese public remains unconcerned: in a survey led by Wang Guoyu, an ethicist at the Dalian University of Technology, nearly 80% of some 6,000 Chinese respondents said that they are not worried about the safety of nanoparticles.

Researchers at the meeting said that better safety testing was needed for products containing nanoparticles that can be absorbed by the body, such as food and cosmetics in which nanoparticles provide specific colours or textures. But occupational exposure among workers handling the materials may present the greatest risks: China’s workplace safety rules are not always implemented, and they set no specific limits for handling nanoparticles.

“The main challenge is to tease out what characteristics make some nanoparticles hazardous,” says Zhao. To address that question, Chinese researchers will next year join forces with colleagues in Europe, the United States and Brazil in a €13-million (US$17-million) project called Nanosolutions, to develop a nano-safety classification system based on material characteristics, toxicity studies and bioinformatics data. Initially focusing on 30 or so materials, such as carbon nanotubes, and nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and silver, the team will use high-throughput screening to identify the most toxic, and then investigate their biological effects in animal studies.

The data will be used to develop computer software to predict the potential hazards of other nanomaterials — a useful tool for industry and regulators around the world, and “essential to any progress in risk assessment”, says Kai Savolainen, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, who leads the project. “It will also help the industry to design safe nanomaterials from the outset.”

Studying factory workers who are exposed to nanomaterials could yield further insights. With Chinese exposure levels likely to be much higher than those in Western factories, such surveys are ideally placed to quantify the risks involved, says Dhimiter Bello, an expert in occupational health at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. Since last year, a team led by the NCNST’s Chen Chunying has been monitoring chemical exposure levels, including those of nanomaterials, in three factories that have varying safety practices. The researchers hope that their data will help the government to draw up regulations covering nanoparticles in the workplace.

As China’s exports are increasingly likely to carry nanotechnology inside them, better regulation is “important not only for safeguarding people, but for the public acceptance of nanotechnology worldwide”, says Nel.

 NatureVolume:489,Pages:350Date published:(20 September 2012)DOI:

NTU-led research probes potential link between cancer and a common chemical in consumer products

study led by a group of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) researchers has found that a chemical commonly used in consumer products can potentially cause cancer.

The chemical, Zinc Oxide, is used to absorb harmful ultra violet light. But when it is turned into nano-sized particles, they are able to enter human cells and may damage the cells’ DNA. This in turn activates a protein called p53, whose duty is to prevent damaged cells from multiplying and becoming cancerous. However, cells that lack p53 or do not produce enough functional p53 may instead develop into cancerous cells when they come into contact with Zinc Oxide nanoparticles.

The study is led by Assistant Professor Joachim Loo, 34, and Assistant Professor Ng Kee Woei, 37, from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. They worked with Assistant Professor David Leong, 38, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore, a joint senior author of this research paper.

The findings suggest that companies may need to reassess the health impact of nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles used in everyday products. More studies are also needed on the use and concentration levels of nanomaterials in consumer products, how often a consumer uses them and in what quantities.

“Currently there is a lack of information about the risks of the nanomaterials used in consumer products and what they can pose to the human body. This study points to the need for further research in this area and we hope to work with the relevant authorities on this,” said Asst Prof Loo.

The groundbreaking research findings were published in this month’s edition of Biomaterials, one of the world’s top journals in the field of biomaterials research. The breakthrough also validated efforts by Asst Prof Loo and Asst Prof Ng to pioneer a research group in the emerging field of nanotoxicology, which is still very much in its infancy throughout the world.

Nanotoxicology studies materials to see if they are toxic or harmful when they are turned into nano-sized particles. This is because nanomaterials usually have very different properties when compared to when the materials are of a larger size.

Asst Prof Ng said the team will carry out further research as the DNA damage brought about by nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles is currently a result of an unknown mechanism. But what is clear is that besides causing DNA damage, nanoparticles can also cause other harmful effects when used in high doses.

“From our studies, we found that nanoparticles can also increase stress levels in cells, cause inflammation or simply kill cells,” said Asst Prof Ng who added that apart from finding out the cellular mechanism, more focused research is also expected to ascertain the physiological effects and damage that nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles can cause.

Asst Prof Loo pointed out that besides enhancing the understanding of the potential risks of using nanomaterials, advancements in nanotoxicology research will also help scientists put nanomaterials to good use in biomedical applications.

For example, although killing cells in our bodies is typically undesirable, this becomes a positive outcome if it can be effectively directed towards cancer cells in the body. At the same time, the team is also studying how nanomaterials can be “re-designed” to pose a lesser risk to humans, yet still possess the desired beneficial properties.

This research discovery is one of the latest in a series of biomedical breakthroughs by NTU in healthcare. Future healthcare is one of NTU’s Five Peaks of Excellence with which the university aims to make its mark globally under the NTU 2015 five-year strategic plan. The other four peaks are sustainable earth, new media, the best of the East and West, and innovation.

Moving forward, the team hopes to work with existing and new collaborative partners, within and outside of Singapore, to orchestrate a more concerted effort towards the advancement of the fledgling field of nanotoxicology here, with the aim of helping regulatory bodies in Singapore formulate guidelines to protect consumer interests.

The research team would also like to work with the European Union to uncover the risks involving nanomaterials and how these materials should be regulated before they are made commercially available. Asst Prof Joachim Loo, who received his Bachelor and Doctorate degrees from NTU, was the only Singaporean representative in a recent nanotechnology workshop held in Europe. At the workshop, it was agreed that research collaborations in nanotoxicology between EU and South-east Asia should be