When I first saw the Jan. 7, 2014 news item on Azonano, I was expecting to see some cute animal images mixed with the ‘nano’ talk. While there’s no mild amusement to be had, there is plenty of ‘nano’ talk concerning the work being done at the Veterinary Research Institute (Brno, Czech republic) on characterizing nanoparticles using some new equipment (Note: Links have been removed),
Malvern [which owns the company, NanoSight] reports on how NanoSight’s Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis, NTA, is being applied in the Veterinary Research Institute, Brno, Czech Republic in the research group of Dr. Jaroslav Turanek in the Department of Pharmacology and Immunotherapy).
The central theme of Dr. Jaroslav Turanek’s research group (Department of Pharmacology and Immunotherapy) at the Veterinary Research Institute in Brno is to apply synthetic and bioorganic chemistry. This work is performed in collaboration with King’s College London and the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Prague, for the design and construction of therapeutic nanoparticles to develop drug delivery systems (anticancer and antiviral drugs) and nanocarriers for construction of recombinant vaccines.
In parallel, the research group of Dr. Miroslav Machala (Department of Chemistry and Toxicology) at Veterinary Research Institute focuses upon environmental nanoparticulate pollutants. Characterization of airborne particles is conducted using electron microscopy, but in vitro tests on cell culture require knowledge of the real structure of nanoparticles in the tissue culture medium (e.g. aggregation). This enables the group to draw the correct conclusions from in vitro toxicological experiments which can be affected by differences in local nanoparticle concentration owing to sedimentation. Detailed particle distribution and kinetics of aggregation in this heterogeneous system is impossible to obtain using electron microscopy and hence Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis, NTA, is the method of choice. It is noted that some metastable aggregates can disaggregate due to high dilution of the sample required for NTA analysis. For this reason, Dynamic Light Scattering, DLS, and NTA are used as suitable complementary methods in the laboratory.
The Jan. 7, 2014 Malvern Instruments press release on biospace.com, which originated the news item, provides a quote from Dr. Jaroslav Turanek’ describing the NTA system,
Explaining their choice of NanoSight, Dr Turanek said “We chose NTA as a convenient and rapid method for characterization of nanoparticles in heterogeneous preparations like liposomes and their complexes with proteins, DNA and polysaccharides. A set of these techniques is used for the complex characterization of the structure of the nanoparticles, the kinetics of their preparation, the dynamics of morphological transformation and, finally, their stability. NTA perfectly fits our needs and has become a standard method in our methodological portfolio. The most advantageous feature of NTA is that it makes it possible to visualize each nanoparticle and then to obtain more detailed size distributions based on individual particle measurements. DLS is used as precise complementary method for the characterization of nanoparticles below 20 nm for proteins and other biopolymers. Combination of these two methods, NTA and DLS, with separation methods (GPC, FFF) and electron microscopy is preferred to get the full insight to structure and dynamics of nanoparticles in our sample systems.”
It took me quite a while to realize that nanoparticles in a sample are not necessarily homogenous, i.e., similar in size, etc. Unconsciously, I had applied my notions of manufacturing where items are made (stamped, poured into moulds, etc.) to be identical. As far as I’m aware there is no such production process for nanoparticles which makes characterizing them an important task if the purpose is to better understand their properties.