This past Monday the New York Academy of Sciences hosted “Nanotechnology and Toxicology: Status and Strategies.”  The event was hosted by the Academy’s Predictive Toxicology Discussion Group and was organized by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Gene Logic, Inc.  Gunter Oberdörster from the University of Rochester gave a presentation entitled “Is Nanoparticle Toxicity Predictable?”  Dr. Oberdörster began his presentation by highlighting the lack of data available to substantiate or refute potential EHS concerns related to the use of engineered nanoparticles in many applications.  He noted several of the very properties of nanoparticles that make them interesting for commercial uses – small size, large surface area, ability to enter cells, translocation ability once inside the human body – might also contribute to their potential toxicity.  Dr. Oberdörster went on to explain translocation and effects of nanoparticles and the hypothetical mechanisms by which such effects occur.  He further argued that surface area is the proper dose metric in nanotoxicology research – not particle mass or particle number, and that exposure routes have a great deal to do with how nanoparticles translocate in the body.  As an example, he pointed to a rat exposure study in which nanoparticles had two differing entry points: (i) inhalation/lung and (ii) bloodstream.  The study apparently found that inhaled nanoparticles accumulated in the rats’ bone marrow and liver, while nanoparticles injected into the bloodstream accumulated in the liver but not in the bone marrow.  Finally, Dr. Oberdörster offer a short explanation of his work on developing a simple assay to be used in determining the toxic potential of nanoparticles.

Rounding out the panel of speakers were Andrew Maynard from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Wendy Sanhai from the Office of Commissioner, FDA – both of whom gave very articulate and cogent presentations.  Dr. Maynard’s presentation was “Nanotechnology Science, Society and Policy,” and Dr. Sanhai’s presentation was “Nanotechnology: Regulatory Jurisdiction, Challenges, Future.”   A videotape of the event should be posted on NYAS’ website later this month.