Toxic nanoparticles?

My obsession with kinematics and kinetics over the past few posts is connected to my recent trip to Italy [see my post last week] as part of a research project on the mechanics of nanoparticles.  We are interested in the toxicological effect of nanoparticles on biological cells.  Nanoparticles are finding lots of applications but we don’t completely understand their interaction with cells and organs in the body.  We are interested in particles with diameters around 10 nanometres.  The diameter of a human hair is 10,000 times bigger.  The small size of these particles has potential implications for their kinematics and kinetics as they move through the body.  We know that protein molecules can attach themselves to nanoparticles forming a corona and as part of our research we are looking at how that influences the motion of the particle.  For instance, it might be appropriate to use kinematics for a spherical metallic nanoparticle but kinetics for one with a corona.

Some of you might be thinking, why go to Italy?  Well, other than for the coffee, I have been working with a colleague there for some time on methods of tracking nanoparticles that are below the resolution of optical microscopes.  We have named the technique ‘nanoscopy’ and it allows us to look at live cells and nanoparticles simultaneously without damaging the cell.  So our current research is an extension of the earlier work (see the two papers referenced below).  Of course the more basic answer is that we get on and are very productive together.

BTW – we can’t ‘see’ our nanoparticles because visible light has wavelengths about fifty times larger than the particles, so light waves pass single particles without being reflected into our eyes or camera.  However, a particle does disturb the light wave and produce a weak optical signature, which we utilise in nanoscopy.

Research papers available on-line at:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/smll.200800703/abstract

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2818.2011.03491.x/abstract

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