Category Archives: health and safety

New US government nano commercialization effort: nanosensors

The latest announcement (this one about nanosensors) from the US National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) on behalf of the US National Nanotechnology (NNI) gets a little confusing but hopefully I’ve managed to clarify things.

It starts off simply enough, from a June 22, 2015 news item on Azonano,

The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) is pleased to announce the launch of a workshop report and a web portal, efforts coordinated through and in support of the Nanotechnology Signature Initiative ‘Nanotechnology for Sensors and Sensors for Nanotechnology: Improving and Protecting Health, Safety, and the Environment’ (Sensors NSI). Together, these resources help pave the path forward for the development and commercialization of nanotechnology-enabled sensors and sensors for nanotechnology.

A June 19, 2015 NNCO news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides details about the report, the new portal, and the new series of webinars,

The workshop report is a summary of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)-sponsored event held September 11-12, 2014, entitled ‘Sensor Fabrication, Integration, and Commercialization Workshop.’ The goal of the workshop was to identify and discuss challenges that are faced by the sensor development community during the fabrication, integration, and commercialization of sensors, particularly those employing or addressing issues of nanoscale materials and technologies.

Workshop attendees, including sensor developers and representative from Federal agencies, identified ways to help facilitate the commercialization of nanosensors, which include:

  • Enhancing communication among researchers, developers, manufacturers, customers, and the Federal Government agencies that support and regulate sensor development.
  • Leveraging resources by building testbeds for sensor developers.
  • Improving access of university and private researchers to federally supported facilities.
  • Encouraging sensor developers to consider and prepare for market and regulatory requirements early in the development process.

In response to discussions at the workshop, the NNI has also launched an NSI Sensors web portal to share information on the sensors development landscape, including funding agencies and opportunities, federally supported facilities, regulatory guidance, and published standards. Ongoing dialogue and collaboration among various stakeholder groups will be critical to effectively transitioning nanosensors to market and to meeting the U.S. need for a reliable and robust sensor infrastructure.

On Thursday June 25, 2015, from noon to 1 pm EDT, NNCO will host a webinar to summarize the highlights from the 2014 ‘Sensor Fabrication, Integration, and Commercialization Workshop’ and to introduce the newly developed Sensors NSI Web Portal. The webinar will also feature a Q&A segment with members of the public. Questions for the panel can be submitted to webinar@nnco.nano.gov from June 18 through the end of the webinar at 1 pm EDT on June 25, 2015.

Here’s the portal for what they’ve called the NSI [Nanotechnology Signature Initiative]: Nanotechnology for Sensors and Sensors for Nanotechnology — Improving and Protecting, Health Safety, and the Environment, also known as, Sensors NSI Web Portal.

Here’s the report titled, “Sensor Fabrication, Integration, and Commercialization Workshop [2014].”

As for the first webinar in this new series, from the National Signature Webinar Series: Resources for the Development of Nanosensors webpage,

The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) will host a webinar to summarize the highlights from the September 2014 Sensor Fabrication, Integration, and Commercialization Workshop and to introduce the newly developed Sensors NSI Web Portal, which was created to share information on the sensors development landscape, including Federal program and funding opportunities, federally supported facilities, regulatory guidance, and published standards.

On Thursday, June 25, 2015, from 12 noon to 1 pm EDT, Federal panelists will begin the event with a discussion of the findings from the Sensor Fabrication, Integration, and Commercialization Workshop, as well as a demonstration of the resources available on the Sensors NSI Portal.  [emphasis mine]

Federal panelists at the event will include:

This event will feature a Q&A segment with members of the public. Questions for the panel can be submitted to webinar@nnco.nano.gov from June 18 through the end of the webinar at 1 pm on June 25, 2015. The moderator reserves the right to group similar questions and to omit questions that are either repetitive or not directly related to the topic. Due to time constraints, it may not be possible to answer all questions.

You can find the link to register at the end/bottom of the event page.

The NNCO does have one other Public Webinar series, ‘NNCO Small- and Medium-sized Business Enterprise (SME) Webinar Series’. They have archived previously held webinars in this series. There are no upcoming webinars in this series currently scheduled.

Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission supports nanomaterial development with a $2M grant

Tobacco growing is not as lucrative as it once was. Worldwide anti-smoking legislation and health campaigns against smoking have had an effect on the industry and the farmers who grow tobacco. With that in mind, the June 10, 2015 news item on Azonano suggests that the industry and the farmers might be trying to find other uses for tobacco,

The Tobacco Commission [aka Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission] voted unanimously to award the Center for Advanced Engineering & Research a $2 million research and development grant, 100% of which will directly support NanoTouch Materials’ continued development of their NanoSeptic surfaces. This funding will be used to research new materials and advanced manufacturing processes, and build a dedicated fabrication facility in Bedford County [state of Virginia].

A June 9, 2015 NanoTouch news release on prnewswire.com, which originated the news item, describes the deal in more detail but offers no indication as to how tobacco might factor into the research (Note: A link has been removed),

“What makes research and development of NanoSeptic products complex and expensive is the multiple areas of scientific expertise required,” says NanoTouch co-founder Mark Sisson. “This funding will allow us to continue working with some of the best scientific minds in material science, nanotechnology, polymers and biotechnology.”

The research component of this grant will be focused on the development of the 5th generation of the NanoSeptic surface. Initial lab testing on early prototypes of the technology resulted in a surface that was 1,000 times more effective than the previous generation, achieving almost a six-log reduction.

Effectiveness of the current NanoSeptic surface has been extensively studied both by an independent FDA compliant lab and university research centers worldwide, including Saudi Arabia and South Korea. These studies utilize internationally recognized standard testing protocols against a variety of pathogens including E. coli, MRSA, Staph, Norovirus and the human Coronavirus, a strain of which is causing MERS outbreaks in the Middle East and Korea.

“NanoSeptic products present a great growth opportunity for this region,” says Bob Bailey, executive director of CAER. “The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research [this appears to be a wholly NanoTouch-owned research group] is excited to be part of this project and we believe that our strong research partnerships with multiple Virginia universities will prove to be a significant asset.”

As part of this three-year initiative, NanoTouch Materials is expected to grow their workforce in Bedford County, VA to a total of 14 employees, and an estimated 37 employees in five years. NanoTouch is also expected to invest $1 million in facilities and advanced manufacturing equipment.

“Virtually every firm or project with which the Tobacco Commission partners has a common characteristic: a tremendous potential to grow.  NanoSeptic is an ideal example of this.  It’s easy to see how big the potential is in healthcare, public and commercial transportation, and the hospitality industry,” says Delegate Kathy Byron, Chair of the Research & Development Committee. “That potential is emblematic of our entire region, and the reestablishment of our manufacturing community.  Once again, companies in Central and Southside Virginia are making products that are being used worldwide.”

While an entire line of NanoSeptic products have been developed and are being distributed to 29 countries, the company also plans to spend significant funding to conduct market research in the healthcare, education, facility management, commercial janitorial and food service industries. This market research will guide future product development and uncover specific ways that self-cleaning surfaces can be used to improve healthcare outcomes, reduce employee and student absenteeism, and broadly improve community health.

“While the vetting process for the grant was exhaustive, we’re grateful for the support of the Tobacco Commission and the Economic Development Authority of Bedford County in our mission of providing cleaner, healthier places in which to live, work and play,” says NanoTouch co-founder Dennis Hackemeyer. “And our investors couldn’t be happier with the company receiving funding that will accelerate growth without diluting their investment.”

The news release goes on to describe the funding agency,

The Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission is a 31-member body whose mission is to promote economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement.  The Commission has awarded 1,831 grants totaling more than $1,072,922,288 across the tobacco region of the Commonwealth. http://www.tic.virginia.gov

I have mentioned NanoTouch before in an April 24, 2013 posting where I also expressed some interest in getting more technical information about the company’s products. In 2013, the company was introducing its product, NanoSeptic, into schools in the Bellmore-Merrick School District of New York.

Could engineered nanoparticles be behind rise in obesity and metabolic disorders?

The researchers haven’t published a study and they have used fruit flies as their testing mechanism (animal models) so, it’s a little difficult (futile) to analyze the work at this stage but it is intriguing. A June 9, 2015 news item on Azonano announces a research collaboration  designed to examine the impact engineered nanoparticles have on the gut and the gut microbiome,

Researchers at Binghamton University believe understanding nano particles’ ability to influence our metabolic processing may be integral to mediating metabolic disorders and obesity, both of which are on the rise and have been linked to processed foods.

Anthony Fiumera, associate professor of biological sciences, and Gretchen Mahler, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, are collaborating on a research project funded by a Binghamton University Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence (TAE) grant to discover the role ingested nanoparticles play in the physiology and function of the gut and gut microbiome.

A June 8, 2015 Binghamton University news release, which originated the news item, describes the reasoning behind the research,

The gut microbiome is the population of microbes living within the human intestine, consisting of tens of trillions of microorganisms (including at least 1,000 different species of known bacteria). Nanoparticles, which are often added to processed foods to enhance texture and color, have been linked to changes in gut function. As processed foods become more common elements of our diet, there has been a significant increase in concentrations of these particles found in the human body.

Fiumera works in vivo with fruit flies while Mahler works in vitro using a 3-D cell-culture model of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to understand how ingesting nanoparticles influences glucose processing and the gut microbiome. By using complementary research methods, the researchers have helped advance each other’s understanding of nanoparticles.

Using fruit flies, Fiumera looks at the effects of nanoparticles on development, physiology and biochemical composition, as well as the microbial community in the GI tract of the fly. The fly model offers two advantages: 1) research can be done on a wide range of traits that might be altered by changes in metabolism and 2) the metabolic processes within the fly are similar to those in humans. Fiumera also aims to investigate which genes are associated with responses to the nanoparticles, which ultimately may help us understand why individuals react differently to nanoparticles.

For this project, Mahler expanded her GI tract model to include a commensal intestinal bacterial species and used the model to determine a more detailed mechanism of the role of nanoparticle exposure on gut bacteria and intestinal function. Early results have shown that nanoparticle ingestion alters glucose absorption, and that the presence of beneficial gut bacteria eliminates these effects.

Mahler was already investigating nanoparticles when she reached out to Fiumera and proposed they combine their respective expertise. With the help of undergraduate students Gabriella Shull and John Fountain and graduate student Jonathan Richter, Fiumera and Mahler have begun to uncover some effects of ingesting nanoparticles. Since they are using realistic, low concentrations of nanoparticles, the effects are slight, but eventually may be additive.

The most interesting aspect of this research (to me) is the notion that the impact may be additive. In short, you might be able to tolerate a few more nanoparticles in your gut but as more engineered nanoparticles become part of our food and drink (including water) and your gut receives more and more that tolerance may no longer possible.

There is increasing concern about engineered nanoparticles as they cycle through environment and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded a programed by Arizona State University (ASU), LCnano Network (part of the EPA’s larger Life Cycle of Nanomaterials project). You can find out more about the ASU program in my April 8, 2014 post (scroll down about 50% of the way).

Getting back to Binghamton, I look forward to hearing more about the research as it progresses.

Opportunity for companies to take a survey on risk management and nanotechnology

A June 8, 2015 news item on Nanowerk features a European Union (EU) Framework Programme 7 (FP7) nanotechnology risk management project and survey,

The EU FP7 Sustainable Nanotechnologies (SUN) project is based on the idea that the current knowledge on environmental and health risks of nanomaterials – while limited – can nevertheless guide nanomanufacturing to avoid liabilities if an integrated approach addressing the complete product lifecycle is applied. SUN aims to evaluate the risks along the supply chains of engineered nanomaterials and incorporate the results into tools and guidelines for sustainable nanomanufacturing.

A May 26, 2015 SUN press release by Stella Stoycheva, which originated the news item, provides more details,

… A key objective of  Sustainable Nanotechnologies (SUN) is to build the SUN Decision Support System (SUNDS) to facilitate safe and sustainable nanomanufacturing and risk management. It will integrate tools for ecological and human health risk assessment, lifecycle assessment, economic assessment and social impact assessment within a sustainability assessment framework. We are currently developing the Technological Alternatives and Risk Management Measures (TARMM) inventory and are looking for companies to fill in a short survey.

… We would appreciate responses from personnel of companies involved in nanotechnology-related activities who are familiar with the risk management practices.

You can go here to take the survey. The focus is on companies and there don’t seem to be any geographic requirements such as only EU companies can participate.

New US platform for nanocellulose and occupational health and safety research

There’ve been quite a few (more than two) news items about nanocellulose in the last weeks. This latest one from the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concerns a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a new research platform, from a May 28, 2015 news item on Nanowerk,

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Partnership to Advance Research and Guidance for Occupational Safety and Health in Nanotechnology (P3NANO). The partnership between NIOSH and P3NANO will serve as a platform for occupational safety and health research as well as educational and business initiatives leading to the development of new risk management guidance, recommendations, and findings relating to the potential human health impacts of exposure to nanoscale cellulose materials.

I found more information about P3NANO in a Sept. 27, 2014 post by Michael Goergen for the Forest Business Network blog,

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) today announced the selection of nine scientific proposals designed to advance the commercialization of Cellulosic Nanomaterials (CN). The projects are being funded through P3Nano – a public-private partnership founded by the Endowment and the USDA Forest Service (USFS) with federal matching funds being provided by the Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry and Research and Develop branches and work coordinated with the USFS Forest Products Laboratory. The initial projects total more than $3 million in partnership funding.

Through a review process that included experts in business, government, and academia with extensive experience in CN, proposals were selected from 65 submissions requesting more than $20 million.

Carlton Owen, Chair of the P3Nano Steering Committee and President of the Endowment stated, “Our partnership is committed to finding new high-value products that build on the renewability of the nation’s forests. Cellulosic nanomaterials offer the promise of not only advanced green products for a more sustainable future but they do so while putting Americans to work in family-wage jobs at the same time that we advance the health and vitality of forests.”

P3Nano had previously awarded its foundational grant focusing on the environmental health and safety of cellulosic nanomaterials ensuring that priority one is the understanding of the environmental impacts and public safety.

The P3Nano (P3NANO) partnership does not seem to have its own website but there is this webpage on the US Endowment for Forestry & Communities, Inc.

One final comment, I’m surprised this initiative didn’t make the list published by the US White House of its new initiatives to commercialize nanotechnology (see my May 27, 2015 post for a full list).

A ‘sweat’mometer—sensing your health through your sweat

At this point, it’s more fitness monitor than diagnostic tool, so, you’ll still need to submit blood, stool, and urine samples when the doctor requests it but the device does offer some tantalizing possibilities according to a May 15, 2015 news item on phys.org,

Made from state-of-the-art silicon transistors, an ultra-low power sensor enables real-time scanning of the contents of liquids such as perspiration. Compatible with advanced electronics, this technology boasts exceptional accuracy – enough to manufacture mobile sensors that monitor health.

Imagine that it is possible, through a tiny adhesive electronic stamp attached to the arm, to know in real time one’s level of hydration, stress or fatigue while jogging. A new sensor developed at the Nanoelectronic Devices Laboratory (Nanolab) at EPFL [École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland] is the first step toward this application. “The ionic equilibrium in a person’s sweat could provide significant information on the state of his health,” says Adrian Ionescu, director of Nanolab. “Our technology detects the presence of elementary charged particles in ultra-small concentrations such as ions and protons, which reflects not only the pH balance of sweat but also more complex hydration of fatigues states. By an adapted functionalization I can also track different kinds of proteins.”

A May 15, 2015 EPFL press release by Laure-Anne Pessina, which originated the news item, includes a good technical explanation of the device for non-experts in the field,

Published in the journal ACS Nano, the device is based on transistors that are comparable to those used by the company Intel in advanced microprocessors. On the state-of-the-art “FinFET” transistor, researchers fixed a microfluidic channel through which the fluid to be analyzed flows. When the molecules pass, their electrical charge disturbs the sensor, which makes it possible to deduce the fluid’s composition.

The new device doesn’t host only sensors, but also transistors and circuits enabling the amplification of the signals – a significant innovation. The feat relies on a layered design that isolates the electronic part from the liquid substance. “Usually it is necessary to use separately a sensor for detection and a circuit for computing and signal amplification,” says Sara Rigante, lead author of the publication. “In our chip, sensors and circuits are in the same device – making it a ‘Sensing integrated circuit’. This proximity ensures that the signal is not disturbed or altered. We can thereby obtain extremely stable and accurate measurements.”

But that’s not all. Due to the size of the transistors – 20 nanometers, which is one hundred to one thousand times smaller than the thickness of a hair – it is possible to place a whole network of sensors on one chip, with each sensor locating a different particle. “We could also detect calcium, sodium or potassium in sweat,” the researcher elaborates.

As to what makes the device special (from the press release),

The technology developed at EPFL stands out from its competitors because it is extremely stable, compatible with existing electronics (CMOS), ultra-low power and easy to reproduce in large arrays of sensors. “In the field of biosensors, research around nanotechnology is intense, particularly regarding silicon nanowires and nanotubes. But these technologies are frequently unstable and therefore unusable for now in industrial applications,” says Ionescu. “In the case of our sensor, we started from extremely powerful, advanced technology and adapted it for sensing need in a liquid-gate FinFET configurations. The precision of the electronics is such that it is easy to clone our device in millions with identical characteristics.”

In addition, the technology is not energy intensive. “We could feed 10,000 sensors with a single solar cell,” Professor Ionescu asserts.

Of course, there does seem to be one shortcoming (from the press release),

Thus far, the tests have been carried out by circulating the liquid with a tiny pump. Researchers are currently working on a means of sucking the sweat into the microfluidic tube via wicking. This would rid the small analyzing “band-aid” of the need for an attached pump.

While they work on eliminating the pump part of the device, here’s  a link to and a citation for the paper,

Sensing with Advanced Computing Technology: Fin Field-Effect Transistors with High-k Gate Stack on Bulk Silicon by Sara Rigante, Paolo Scarbolo, Mathias Wipf, Ralph L. Stoop, Kristine Bedner, Elizabeth Buitrago, Antonios Bazigos, Didier Bouvet, Michel Calame, Christian Schönenberger, and Adrian M. Ionescu. ACS Nano, Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/nn5064216 Publication Date (Web): March 27, 2015

Copyright © 2015 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

As for the ‘sweat’mometer in the headline, I was combining sweat with thermometer.

The shorter, the better for cellulose nanofibres

Cellulose nanomaterials can be derived from any number of plants. In Canada, we tend to think of our trees first but there are other sources such as cotton, bananas, hemp, carrots, and more.

In anticipation that cellulose nanofibres will become increasingly important constituents of various products and having noticed a resemblance to carbon nanotubes, scientists in Switzerland have investigated the possible toxicity issues according to a May 7, 2015 news item on Nanowerk,

Plant-based cellulose nanofibres do not pose a short-term health risk, especially short fibres, shows a study conducted in the context of National Research Programme “Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials” (NRP 64). But lung cells are less efficient in eliminating longer fibres.

Similar to carbon nanotubes that are used in cycling helmets and tennis rackets, cellulose nanofibres are extremely light while being extremely tear-resistant. But their production is significantly cheaper because they can be manufactured from plant waste of cotton or banana plants. “It is only a matter of time before they prevail on the market,” says Christoph Weder of the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg [Switzerland].

A May 7, 2015 Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) press release, which originated the news item, provides more detail,

In the context of the National Research Programme “Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials” (NRP 64), he collaborated with the team of Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser to examine whether these plant-based nanofibres are harmful to the lungs when inhaled. The investigation does not rely on animal testing; instead the group of Rothen-Rutishauser developped a complex 3D lung cell system to simulate the surface of the lungs by using various human cell cultures in the test tube.

The shorter, the better

Their results (*) show that cellulose nanofibres are not harmful: the analysed lung cells showed no signs of acute stress or inflammation. But there were clear differences between short and long fibres: the lung cell system efficiently eliminated short fibres while longer fibres stayed on the cell surface.

“The testing only lasted two days because we cannot grow the cell cultures for longer,” explains Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser. For this reason, she adds, they cannot say if the longer fibre may have a negative impact on the lungs in the long term. Tests involving carbon nanotubes have shown that lung cells lose their equilibrium when they are faced with long tubes because they try to incorporate them into the cell to no avail. “This frustrated phagocytosis can trigger an inflammatory reaction,” says Rothen-Rutishauser. To avoid potential harm, she recommends that companies developing products with nanofibres use fibres that are short and pliable instead of long and rigid.

National Research Programme “Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials” (NRP 64)

The National Research Programme “Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials” (NRP 64) hopes to be able to bridge the gaps in our current knowledge on nanomaterials. Opportunities and risks for human health and the environment in relation to the manufacture, use and disposal of synthetic nanomaterials need to be better understood. The projects started their research work in December 2010.

I have a link to and a citation for the paper (Note: They use the term cellulose nanocrystals in the paper’s title),

Fate of Cellulose Nanocrystal Aerosols Deposited on the Lung Cell Surface In Vitro by Carola Endes, Silvana Mueller, Calum Kinnear, Dimitri Vanhecke, E. Johan Foster, Alke Petri-Fink, Christoph Weder, Martin J. D. Clift, and Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser. Biomacromolecules, 2015, 16 (4), pp 1267–1275 DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.5b00055 Publication Date (Web): March 19, 2015

Copyright © 2015 American Chemical Society

While tracking down the 2015 paper, I found this from 2011,

Investigating the Interaction of Cellulose Nanofibers Derived from Cotton with a Sophisticated 3D Human Lung Cell Coculture by Martin J. D. Clift, E. Johan Foster, Dimitri Vanhecke, Daniel Studer, Peter Wick, Peter Gehr, Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser, and Christoph Weder. Biomacromolecules, 2011, 12 (10), pp 3666–3673 DOI: 10.1021/bm200865j Publication Date (Web): August 16, 2011

Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society

Both papers are behind a paywall.

Metal nanoparticles and gut microbiomes

What happens when you eat or drink nanoparticles, metallic or otherwise? No one really knows. Part of the problem with doing research now is there are no benchmarks for the quantity we’ve been ingesting over the centuries. Nanoparticles do occur naturally, as well, people who’ve eaten with utensils made of or coated with silver or gold have ingested silver or gold nanoparticles that were shed by those very utensils. In short, we’ve been ingesting any number of nanoparticles through our food, drink, and utensils in addition to the engineered nanoparticles that are found in consumer products. So, part of what researchers need to determine is the point at which we need to be concerned about nanoparticles. That’s trickier than it might seem since we ingest our nanoparticles and recycle them into the environment (air, water, soil) to reingest (inhale, drink, eat, etc.) them at a later date. The endeavour to understand what impact engineered nanoparticles in particular will have on us as more are used in our products is akin to assembling a puzzle.

There’s a May 5, 2015 news item on Azonano which describes research into the effects that metallic nanoparticles have on the micriobiome (bacteria) in our guts,

Exposure of a model human colon to metal oxide nanoparticles, at levels that could be present in foods, consumer goods, or treated drinking water, led to multiple, measurable differences in the normal microbial community that inhabits the human gut. The changes observed in microbial metabolism and the gut microenvironment with exposure to nanoparticles could have implications for overall human health, as discussed in an article published in Environmental Engineering Science, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Environmental Engineering Science website until June 1, 2015.

A May 4, 2015 Mary Ann Liebert publisher news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, describes the research in more detail (Note: A link has been removed),

Alicia Taylor, Ian Marcus, Risa Guysi, and Sharon Walker, University of California, Riverside, individually introduced three different nanoparticles–zinc oxide, cerium dioxide, and titanium dioxide–commonly used in products such as toothpastes, cosmetics, sunscreens, coatings, and paints, into a model of the human colon. The model colon mimics the normal gut environment and contains the microorganisms typically present in the human microbiome.

In the article “Metal Oxide Nanoparticles Induce Minimal Phenotypic Changes in a Model Colon Gut Microbiota” the researchers described changes in both specific characteristics of the microbial community and of the gut microenvironment after exposure to the nanoparticles.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Metal Oxide Nanoparticles Induce Minimal Phenotypic Changes in a Model Colon Gut Microbiota by Alicia A. Taylor, Ian M. Marcus Ian, Risa L., Guysi, and Sharon L. Walker. Environmental Engineering Science. DOI:10.1089/ees.2014.0518 Online Ahead of Print: April 24, 2015

I’ve taken a quick look at the research while it’s still open access (till June 1, 2015) to highlight the bits I consider interesting. There’s this about the nanoparticle (NP) quantities used in the study (Note: Links have been removed),

Environmentally relevant NP concentrations were chosen to emulate human exposures to NPs through ingestion of both food and drinking water at 0.01 μg/L ZnO NP, 0.01 μg/L CeO2 NP, and 3 mg/L TiO2 NP (Gottschalk et al., 2009; Kiser et al., 2009, 2013; Weir et al., 2012; Keller and Lazareva, 2013). Recent work has also indicated that adults in the USA ingest 5 mg TiO2 per day, half of which is in the nano-size range (Lomer et al., 2000; Powell et al., 2010). Exposure routes and reliable dosing information of NPs that are embedded in solid matrices are difficult to predict, and this is often a limitation of analytical techniques (Nowack et al., 2012; Yang and Westerhoff, 2014). The exposure levels used in this study were predominately selected from literature values that give predictions on amount of NPs in water and food sources (Gottschalk et al., 2009; Kiser et al., 2009; Weir et al., 2012; Keller and Lazareva, 2013; Keller et al., 2013).

For anyone unfamiliar with chemical notations, ZnO NP is zinc oxide nanoparticle, 0.01 μg/L is one/one hundredth of a microgram per litre,  CeO2 is cesisum dioxide NP, and TiO2 is titanium dioxide NP while 3 mg/L, is 3 milligrams per litre.

After assuring the quantities used in the study are the same as they expect humans to be ingesting on a regular basis, the researchers describe some of the factors which may affect the interaction between the tested nanoparticles and the bacteria (Note: Links have been removed),

It is essential to note that interactions between NPs and bacteria in the intestines may be dependent on numerous factors: the surface charge of the NPs and bacteria, the chemical composition and surface charge of the digested food, and variability in diet. These factors may ultimately correlate to effects seen in humans on an individual basis. In fact, similar work has demonstrated that exposing common NPs found in food to stomach-like conditions will change their surface chemistry from negative to neutral or positive, causing the NPs to interact with negatively charged mucus proteins in the gastrointestinal tract and, in turn, affecting the transport of NPs within the intestine (McCracken et al., 2013). The purpose of this work was to measure responses of the microbial community during the NP exposures. Based on previous research, it is anticipated that the NPs altered by stomach-like conditions would also cause changes in the gut environment (McCracken et al., 2013).

Here’s some of what they discovered,

Our initial hypothesis, that NPs induce phenotypic changes in a gut microbial community, was affirmed through significant measurable effects seen in the data. Tests that supported that NPs caused changes in the phenotype included hydrophobicity, EPM, sugar content of the EPS, cell size, conductivity, and SFCA (specifically butyric acid) production. Data for cell concentration and the protein content of the EPS demonstrated no significant results. Data were inconclusive for pH. With such a complex biological system, it is very likely that the phenotypic and biochemical changes observed are combinations of responses happening in parallel. The effects seen may be attributed to both changes induced by the NPs and natural phenomena associated with microbial community activity and other metabolic processes in a multifaceted environment such as the gut. Some examples of natural processes that could also influence the phenotypic and biochemical parameters are osmolarity, active metabolites, and electrolyte concentrations (Miller and Wood, 1996; Record et al., 1998).

Here’s the concluding sentence from the abstract,

Overall, the NPs caused nonlethal, significant changes to the microbial community’s phenotype, which may be related to overall health effects. [emphasis mine]

This research like the work I featured in a June 27, 2013 posting points to some issues with researching the impact that nanoparticles may have on our bodies. There was no cause for immediate alarm in 2013 and it appears that is still the case in 2015. However, that assumes quantities being ingested don’t increase significantly.

Outcomes for US-European Union bridging Nano environment, health, and safety (EHS) research workshop

According to Lynn Bergeson in an April 14, 2015 news item on Nanotechnology Now, a US-European Union (EU) workshop on nanosafety has published a document,

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) published on March 23, 2015, the outcomes of the March 12-13, 2015, joint workshop held by the U.S. and the European Union (EU), “Bridging NanoEHS Research Efforts.” …

A US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) ??, ??, 2015 notice on the nano.gov site provides more details,

Workshop participants reviewed progress toward COR [communities of research] goals and objectives, shared best practices, and identified areas for cross-COR collaboration.  To address new challenges the CORs were realigned and expanded with the addition of a COR on nanotechnology characterization. The seven CORs now address:

Characterization
Databases and Computational Modeling
Exposure through Product Life
EcoToxicity
Human Toxicity
Risk Assessment
Risk Management and Control

The CORs support the shared goal of responsible nanotechnology development as outlined in the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative EHS Research Strategy, and the research strategy of the EU NanoSafety Cluster. The CORs directly address several priorities described in the documents above, including the creation of a comprehensive nanoEHS knowledge base and international cooperation on the development of best practices and consensus standards.

The CORs are self-run, with technical support provided by the European Commission and the U.S. National Nanotechnology Coordination Office. Each Community has European and American co-chairs who convene meetings and teleconferences, guide the discussions, and set the group’s agenda. Participation in the CORs is free and open to any interested individuals. More information is available at www.us-eu.org.

The workshop was organized by the European Commission and the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative under the auspices of the agreement for scientific and technological cooperation between the European Union and the United States.

Coincidentally, I received an April 13, 2015 notice about the European Commission’s NanoSafety Cluster’s Spring 2015 newsletter concerning their efforts but found no mention of the ‘bridging workshop’. Presumably, information was not available prior to the newsletter’s deadline.

In my April 8, 2014 posting about a US proposed rule for reporting nanomaterials, I included information about the US and its efforts to promote or participate in harmonizing the nano situation internationally. Scroll down about 35% of the way to find information about the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Nanotechnology Initiative, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) effort, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) effort.

Nano-enabled toothbrush uses water only for cleansing teeth

Milan Design Week (April 14 – 19, 2015) generally doesn’t generally feature here but the introduction of a nano-enabled toothbrush which will keep your teeth looking like they were just cleaned at the dental office and doesn’t require toothpaste cannot be ignored. From an April 13, 2015 article by John Brownlee for Fast Company (Note: Links have been removed),

Designer Kosho Ueshima collaborated with Japanese technology company Yumeshokunin to create an incredible toothbrush that uses nanotechnology to clean your teeth—no toothpaste necessary. The brush’s bristles—which are 0.178 millimeters thick—are coated in mineral ions, and when passed over your teeth, the ions remove stains and form a protective coating over your enamel. To activate the brush, all that’s needed is a dip in a cup of water.

Meant to resemble a stream of running water, the brush is named Misoka, which means “last day of the month,” in Japanese. That also happens to be the lifespan of these brushes, requiring a change of bristles every 30 days.

Here’s the latest version of the toothbrush,

NanoToothBrush

A ??, ??, 2015 article by Jessica Zannoti for Social Design Magazine, provides more details,

The project is a collaboration with the company Yumeshokunin Co. LTD of Osaka entrusting the nanotechnology mineral development of its products.

Yumeshokunin – “artisan of dreams” in Japanese – combines craftsmanship with advanced technology, with the idea of ​​”convey feeling in the world.”

Misoka: nanotechnology, mineral ions and water (pure)

The objects that make use of nanotechnology are characterized by the size of the order of a billionth of a meter. The bristles of the toothbrush misoka are in fact coated with mineral ions of nanometric dimensions. As you brush, the ions move in the water and pass the bristles to the teeth by removing stains, coating them and keeping them clean and shiny all day.

Unlike traditional bristles, those misoka thin on the tips for better cleaning and massaging the interdental areas. Even without toothpaste, teeth are shiny and clean as just come out of a session of teeth cleaning at the dentist.

The expression misoka Japanese for “last day of the month” and the toothbrush should be replaced every month just, after which time it deteriorates and loses its effectiveness. Misoka also due Misogi word meaning “to purify body and spirit with pure water.” If you brush your teeth with misoka means using energy minerals – noted Kosho Ueshima at the design stage – then this gesture is equivalent to simply brush with water. The result is a new way to brush teeth.

I have not been able to unearth more information about the mineral ions being used to clean teeth. According to Zanotti and other sources, the toothbrush has been available since 2007 in the Japanese and Asian markets. 2015 marks the toothbrush’s introduction to Europe.

You might be able to find out more about the product and the mineral ions on the Yumeshokunin website but you will need Japanese language reading skills.