Along with the extensive use of nanotechnology comes consideration for the environmental and human health risks that may result from introducing ENPs into the environment. Although toxic effects for certain types of ENPs have been recently reported, there is still a lack of knowledge about their possible long-term effects on biological systems. With this in mind, the EU-funded MODERN (Modeling the environmental and human health effects of nanomaterials (MODERN)) project focused on understanding the processes governing the interactions of nanoparticles with biological systems and their associated mechanisms of toxicity, which are essential for ENP safety assessment. Overall, the aim was to establish new modelling approaches appropriate for relating nanotoxicity with the intrinsic molecular and physicochemical properties of ENPs at environmental exposure levels and to implement safe-by-design nanoparticle design strategies. MODERN achieved several key outcomes. New methodologies were devised for the computation of descriptors for nanoparticles (nanodescriptors) focusing on metals and metal oxides. The team also created a library of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles for model testing and safe-by-design hypothesis validation. A web-based nanosafety data management system was set up that is compliant with the ISA-TAB-Nano format to facilitate data exchange. Researchers gathered ecotoxicity data via experiments to populate the nanosafety data repository. Structure-activity relationships for nanomaterials based on selected properties and ecotoxicological endpoints were developed, as were nanoparticle signatures that integrate biological information at multiple levels. Lastly, MODERN established a data-driven framework and basic categorisation criteria for the identification of nanoparticle categories, as well as a hazard scheme to rank ENPs and their categories according to their potential environmental and human health consequences. The novel nanodescriptors and the new and improved toxicity models developed in MODERN will lead to improved understanding of safety issues concerning nanoparticles for scientists, producers, regulators and the general public alike.
Nanomaterials, engineered nanoparticles, human health, biological systems, nanodescriptors