Brain injuries in fish and nanoparticles?

I would have liked more details about the fish and how nanoparticles cause brain injuries. Here’s an excerpt from the Sept.19, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

Scientists at the University of Plymouth have shown, for the first time in an animal, that nanoparticles have a detrimental effect on the brain and other parts of the central nervous system.

They subjected rainbow trout to titanium oxide [or titanium dioxide as it’s sometimes called] nanoparticles which are widely used as a whitening agent in many products including paints, some personal care products, and with applications being considered for the food industry. They found that the particles caused vacuoles (holes) to form in parts of the brain and for nerve cells in the brain to die. Although some effects of nanoparticles have been shown previously in cell cultures and other in vitro systems this is the first time it has been confirmed in a live vertebrate.

I have a number of questions after reading this (and the rest of the news item).

  • The statement is that nanoparticles cause brain injury in fish but the researchers mention titanium di/oxide nanoparticles only.  Did they test other nanoparticles as well?
  • How did they conduct the tests?
  • Did the fish ingest titanium di/oxide from the water? From their food? From both?
  • What concentrations were they exposed to?
  • Were they in an environment similar to what they’d experience naturally? Or were they in special tanks?

Apparently the results are being presented in London at the “6th International meeting on the Environmental Effects on Nanoparticles and Nanomaterials” (21st – 23rd September [2011]) at the Royal Society.

Using an incendiary headline (Nanoparticles cause brain injury in fish) for your news release is certainly an attention getter. I trust the research team (led by Professor Richard Handy of the Plymouth University Ecotoxicology Research and Innovation Centre’s Environmenal nanoscience and nanotoxicology team) can back up this statement with data and that it will be made available to a broader audience than the meeting attendees.

2 thoughts on “Brain injuries in fish and nanoparticles?

  1. LaVerne Poussaint

    Hardly is that headline sensationalised; it builds upon and corroborates aquatic ecotoxicology investigations of Prof. Jörg Oehlmann and Carolin Völker at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, whose works are expounded -as are Handy’s [who in point of fact did conduct nanoTiO2 as well as nanoAg studies ] – within domain of proper research venues.

    Methodologies, operational protocols, thesis and antithesis materials, lurking variables, confounding factors, etc., can never be adequately communicated in dialect of journalism.

    The press can never take the place of peer-reviewed discourse and discovery; its formatting and time constraints cannot accommodate such, neither can the personalities of its producers. Any truly inquiring mind would be better directed away from newspaper and led towards a library for deeper, authentic query.

    “Reporting” on science is not “recording” science. They are not one and the same, and never shall be – despite the very noisy in vogue upsurge of “public engagement” chatter.

  2. admin

    Hi Laverne! Thank you for dropping by to read and leave a comment. My difficulty with the headline “Nanoparticles cause brain injury in fish” is that not all nanoparticles cause brain injuries to fish, as far as we know. The research mentioned titanium oxide nanoparticles only (or titanium dioxide as it’s sometimes called). There was no reference to any other research supporting this contention. By the way, this research was being presented at a conference. Perhaps it will be available in the proceedings (there was no mention of publication in any journal) but there is no guarantee that they will be published (I’m still waiting for a paper I presented at a 2009 conference to be published). Further, access via library sources can be difficult. I was trying to read another paper earlier this summer and neither academic library that I use had access to the publication’s current year. (Note: I tried the University of British Columbia [UBC] which is one of the older, most established and richer universities in Canada. I also tried Simon Fraser University as they cover some subject areas in more depth than UBC does.)

    I do have some objections to scientists or conference organizers using hype to get attention. I’ve worked in marketing and have no objection to eye-catching headlines but in my book those headlines had better be supported by the content that follows.

    I don’t care how someone gets access to science information. I would like to see them question it in a spirit of open inquiry as opposed to criticizing research simply because they don’t agree with it (it’s been my observation that scientists are as prone to that as the rest of us).

    Laverne, you’ve very much stimulated my thinking although I suspect my conclusions are somewhat different than yours. Cheers, Maryse PS I’m sorry I took so long to reply.

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