The study will employ a specialized reactor to generate engineered nanoparticles in collaboration with the world's largest manufacturer of nanoparticles, who will also evaluate the particles for actual application as tire reinforcements and in conductive polymers. The studies will employ and develop state-of-the-art, real-time particle characterization methods, including quantitative single-particle mass spectrometry, as well as particle characterization that bridges the gap between the molecular and particulate scales. Process models that include detailed chemistry coupled to aerosol dynamics will be developed as a predictive tool to provide detailed information on both microstructure and composition. A particularly attractive feature of the project is its inclusion of an extensive effort in toxicology. Mechanisms of particle-cell interactions will be evaluated and potential adverse/beneficial effects will be determined using a tiered testing approach. At first, in vitro studies will be performed using specific target cells (lung epithelial, vascular endothelial, neurons and others) to evaluate the oxidative stress inducing potential of the engineered nanoparticles. This will be followed by in vivo studies in rats with delivery of the particles to the circulation and to the lung, followed by evaluation of potential adverse pulmonary and systemic effects. The proposed work combines an outstanding capability to manipulate and characterize nanoparticle structure, morphology, and chemistry with an industrial firm willing to evaluate their performance in multibillion-dollar applications, and a team of medical researchers performing fundamental studies on the degrees and mechanisms of their toxicity. As such, the study addresses current key issues concerning both the commercial and societal impacts of nanotechnology.
September 9, 2005