Natural or engineered – our knowledge about the potentials and hazards of small but mighty nanoparticles is still limited. Italian researchers have now taken a hard look at “both sides of the coin”.
By Maria Trovato
Nanoparticles are structures with dimensions somewhere in the range between “microscopic” and “molecular”. To accurately measure the size of a nanoparticle it is necessary to use nanometres – each of which is the equivalent of one billionth of a meter. Due to the fact that some of their physical properties occur uniquely within the nanometre scale, nanoparticles have been the target of emerging technologies (nanotechnologies) for about thirty years now. However, so far, the threats that nanoparticles may pose to human health have not been scientifically confirmed.
A recent review published in Reviews on Environmental Health summarises the cellular mechanisms of nanoparticle-transport within the cell as well as their toxicity and potential for use in drug delivery.
Is thyroid cancer more common near volcanoes?
On one hand, the effects of geochemical exposure to natural nanoparticles were evaluated through epidemiological data and evidence of cancerous pathways activated by ferrous nanoparticles. In particular, researchers screened the incidence of papillary thyroid carcinomas in inhabitants of the Sicilian volcanic area surrounding Mount Etna. Their findings indicated that the incidence of thyroid cancer was markedly higher in people living close to the volcano relative to other Sicilian provinces.
On the other hand, due to the increased production of carbon nanotubes – exceptionally small and strong cylindrical carbon molecules used heavily in nanotechnology – the authors considered the toxicity and potential uses of engineered nanoparticles in drug delivery. According to the Italian researchers, the loading of these tubes with bioactive molecules “could overcome several problems related to administration including insolubility, poor biodistribution and the inability of therapeutic or diagnostic molecules to cross cellular barriers.”
Read the original article here:
Maria Concetta Trovato, Daniele Andronico, Salvatore Sciacchitano, Rosaria Maddalena Ruggeri, Isa Picerno, Angela Di Pietro, Giuseppa Visalli: Nanostructures: between natural environment and medical practice, 06.09.2018.