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Nanoporous and Nanostructured Materials for Medical Applications

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NanoMed (Nanoporous and Nanostructured Materials for Medical Applications)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-12-31

This project aims to develop novel nanostructured adsorbents for the treatment of very serious health conditions associated with acute and chronic exposure to external radiation and uptake of heavy metal and radiation as a consequence of accidental, occupational and deliberate activities and events. or
Exposure to radiation and uptake of heavy metals decreases the quality of life in humans. Taking into account that this is a worldwide problem, it is urgent to mitigate it through the development of a novel, low cost and efficient technology able to adsorb and remove these toxic species, or those created through side reactions, from the human body. This is specially important for countries such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan (large areas in the Chernobyl zone and around the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site) that contain important radioactive contamination.
Overall, the objectives of the project are:

Ø Synthesis and design of nanostructured carbonic sorbents with controlled chemical reactivity, particle size and porosity;
Ø Use of nanostructured materials as powerful and safe adsorbents to remove target substances for enterosorbent application
Ø Combining different materials and substances in a composite or hybrid system creating an unusual synergy of useful physicochemical and biochemical properties that cannot be achieved in a single- component material
Ø Cross-fertilisation between different technologies used to manufacture materials with the same or similar chemical composition (for example, different methods of synthesis of porous gels/cryogels, activated carbon materials, inorganic minerals), bioactive additives, etc.
During the first year of the project, NanoMed consortium has been working in the developement of nanoporous solids combining a highly developed porous structure (mainly microporous structure) and controlled surface chemistry. The main goal was to design a 3D system constituted by channels and/or cavities able to adsorb a large quantity of heavy metals and toxins. The initial work has been concentrated in the design and development of individual compounds. For this purpose, the project has focussed in three main materials: activated carbons, zeolites and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). In the specific case of activated carbons, a wide variety of precursors have been evaluated (from petroleum residues, polymeric precursors, rice husk, biomass, etc.). In addition, different synthesis routes have been evaluated (physical and chemical activation). The obtained materials exhibit a range of BET surface area with values up to 2500 m2/g. Furthermore, the surface chemistry in these materials has been modified through the application of post-synthesis methods (e.g. oxidation with inorganic acids). In the specific case of zeolites, natural systems have been preferentially evaluated. These systems have been modified through the incorporation of transition metal species to improve the adsorption performance towards radioactive species. In addition, magnetic nanoparticles have been incorporated in the zeolite so that the final composite can be driven into the organism to the target place with a magnet.
Some of these systems have been evaluated in the adsorption of anti-inflamatory molecules and toxins with a very good adsorption performance. Last but not least, cytotoxicity tests provided very promising results for the majority of the sorbents evaluated.
At this point it is important to highlight that this research has been published in high-impact factor international journals.
The expertise of the consortium in this multidisciplinary study has been really important to achieve nanoporous solids (activated carbons, zeolites, and MOFs) combining a widely developed porous structure and surface chemistry, an excellent adsorption performance and a good biocompatibility. Some of these materials are above the actual values reported in the literature in terms of BET surface area and adsorption capacity. Although each of these materials exhibit a promising performance, each of them fails under certain experimental conditions (for instance, for multicomponent systems). The main goal of the project at this moment is to evaluate the preparation of composites so that the combination of 2 or more of these components (including also the incorporation of pectins as an additive) can give rise to a larger efficiency towards different targets (toxins, heavy metals. specific drugs, etc.) and under different experimental conditions. These composites will be a step stone in the design and development of a novel technology to threat the side effects after accute radiation and heavy metal exposure/uptake. The development of these composites and their high efficiency will be extremely important to mitigate the problems and side effects in humans associated to radiation exposure in contaminated environments.
SEM image of activated carbon produced from rice husk
Single crystal of MOF growing in the 3D network of a carbon material