WG4 Environmental Nanotoxicology & Nanoparticules

Bridging results from AFM technology with clinical implications and Environmental Nanotoxicology.

Nanotoxicology addresses the potentially toxicological interactions between nanostructure materials and living matter and investigates potential risks associated with nanomaterials during their production, use and disposal. Detection and characterization of toxic substances and their interactions with biological pathways is a multi-scale challenge ranging from metals to microbes. AFM, by its operational scale (from the nm to μm) and its versatility, is adapted for studying structures and reactions of toxic species in solid and liquid states. It offers the capability of three dimensional visualization and both qualitative and quantitative information on many physical properties including size, morphology, surface texture and roughness. The AFM can characterize nanoparticles in multiple mediums including ambient air, controlled environments, and liquids.

Negative effects of nanotechnology on both public health and the environment are a growing concern. For instance engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) made of single elements like carbon or silver or a mixture of elements/molecules benefit to modern medicine. In several instances, nanoparticles enable analyses and therapies that simply cannot be performed otherwise. However, ENPs also bring with them unique environmental and societal challenges, particularly in regard to toxicity. ENPs have the potential for spreading in the environment, being taken up by organisms. Some of them have already been shown to have noxious effects on organisms.

WG 4 will evaluate the effectiveness of AFM as a tool in the emerging fields of nanoecology and nanoecotoxicology.  The application of AFM and achievements in material science and nanotechnology on one side and in biophysics (biology, life science) is now ready to be applied to the environment. AFM will be used for investigating the unique biokinetics and toxicological potential of ENPs, as well as propensities such as their shapes (e.g., spheres, tubes, rods), chemistries (e.g., metals, semiconductors, carbon) and different surface characteristics (coating, charge, porosity). The WG 4 will also focus on applications of AFM ranging from diagnosis of pathological viruses to the study of complex systems such as biofilms and micro/nano gels. Within this Action WG 4 will interact with WG 1 regarding the characterization of nanoparticles at high resolution, with WG 2 concerning force spectroscopy of marine gels and biofilms, with WG 3 on nanodiagnostics and protocols for samples preparation and with WG 5 concerning the selection of the best mode of imaging or characterization of environmental samples.