"We hereby propose a study on the physical and biological basis of the interaction between inhaled carbon nanoparticles and lung membranes, by computational approach.
The past decades have seen hundreds of new applications of nanomaterials developed and patented. At the same time, the scientific community is encouraged to devote research efforts to assess the safety of nanotechnology products. The PLUM project focuses on the effects of inhaled carbon nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes. Inhalation of carbon nanoparticles, one of the major byproducts of combustion processes, may happen to all of us, when stuck in a traffic jam in our city. Specialized workers may be exposed, as well, during the production or dispersion of carbon nanoparticles and nanofibers, or when cutting or re-processing a composite material containing carbon nanotubes. During inhalation, the first barrier which nanoparticles bump into is the lung membrane, which coats the inner surface of alveoli. Lung membranes are our first line of defense against foreign substances attempting to enter our organism via air and they are crucial for breathing, regulating gas exchange at the water-air interface of the alveoli.
Understanding the mechanisms of nanoparticle interaction with lung membranes is a fundamental step for the assessment of NPs hazardousness. PLUM will pursue this objective by studying this interaction at molecular level, addressing at the same time physical and biological effects by computational techniques. We will consider both carbon nanoparticles and nanotubes, and we will investigate their influence on the membrane properties and the mechanism of permeation through lung membranes. These effects will be studied as a function of physical properties (e.g., size, shape) and chemical features (coating and functionalization). PLUM will mainly rely on Molecular Dynamics simulations, and it will devote important efforts to the development of new models at all-atom and coarse-grained level."
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