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Towards computational and empirical risk assessment of engineered nanoparticles

An EU initiative supported collaboration between nanoparticle (NP) research groups in order to improve risk assessment and safety in this rapidly growing field.

Industrial Technologies

The rapid burst of novel applications in nanotechnology calls for coordinated and comprehensive ways of assessing potential human and environmental health risks. The EU-funded NANOBRIDGES (Building bridges between specialists on computational and empirical risk assessment of engineered nanomaterials) project answered this call through the creation of an international network of nanotechnology engineering researchers. Overall, the aim was to develop novel methods for modelling human health and environmental effects of engineered nanoparticles using computational approaches assisted by the available experimental data that can be simply applied by the industry to design safe and environmentally friendly nanomaterials. The network tackled issues that limit risk assessment for NPs. These include cooperation between developers of computational and empirical methods for risk assessment, exchange of ideas developed simultaneously by various related groups and organisation of regulatory attempts globally in nano risk assessment. Work began with a literature review to define quality assessment criteria for toxicity and other physico-chemical data of NPs. This led to universal protocols of obtaining high-quality data for computational modelling. A series of novel structural descriptors were devised as well as algorithms that study the interactions of NPs with different small proteins key to the human body and a DNA molecule were examined. In addition several software tools to enable grouping, read across and QSAR modelling for NPs were developed. Finally, Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship models (QSAR) were developed for several selected endpoints using defined quality data requirements. By providing new models and methods for testing the safety of NPs, NANOBRIDGES will improve risk assessment in a society becoming ever more reliant on nanotechnology. It also linked various aspects of NP risk assessment, helping to overcome fragmentation of scientific efforts in this emerging field. The nanotech sector can now envision designing safe and environmentally friendly nanomaterials.

Keywords

Nanoparticles, risk assessment, nanotechnology, nanotoxicity

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