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August 3, 2010

NIEHS Begins Intramural NanoHealth Signature Program

Lynn L. Bergeson

The August 2010 issue of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Environmental Factor includes an article regarding the Intramural NanoHealth Signature Program, which is intended to investigate the health effects of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) in susceptible populations. According to the article, ENMs are increasingly found in medications, cosmetics, electronics, and other consumer products, creating environmental as well as occupational exposures. Over the next three years, researchers in the Clinical Research Unit (CRU) will engage in bidirectional collaborations with the National Toxicology Program (NTP), labs in the NIEHS intramural program, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as they explore the effects of exposure among healthy and susceptible populations to ENMs that are already present in the atmosphere.  The team will study the effects in cells tissue, animals, and human subjects. The research team will test the hypothesis that selected engineered nanomaterials induce pulmonary inflammation and that asthmatic individuals are particularly susceptible to ENM effects, in a translational exposure model with three aims:

  • Exposing human bronchial epithelia and alveolar macrophages — native lungs cells donated by healthy volunteers — to ENMs ex vivo to evaluate inflammation and cell toxicity;
  • Comparing the ex vivo response to ENMs of human bronchial epithelia and alveolar macrophages between healthy and asthmatic individuals to understand whether pre-existing disease alters the effect of ENMs on human cells; and
  • Performing controlled chamber exposures of human volunteers to select ENMs of interest to assess the potential for effects on lung function and inflammation.