Issues of Nanotechnology

                Tiny Particles...

            raise big concerns

The extraordinarily high numbers of nanoparticles per given mass will likely be of toxicological significance when these particles interact with cells and subcellular components. Likewise, their increased surface area per unit mass can be toxicologically important.  Citation 17



An important aspect of the nanoscale is that the smaller a nanoparticle gets, the larger its relative surface area becomes. Its electronic structure changes dramatically, too. Both effects lead to greatly improved catalytic activity but can also lead to aggressive chemical reactivity. There are tremendous differences in particle number concentrations and particle surface areas for particles of different sizes (assuming an airborne concentration of 10 µg/m3 of unit density for particles of each size): Citation 17

Blood-brain Barrier damage

Scientists have now reported a nanoparticle-based platform which 'tricks' the BBB into allowing the entry of the nanoparticle into the brain, using an approach that draws parallel to the 'Trojan horse' concept. Certain proteins and peptides, such as the iron-transporting protein transferrin, are allowed free access across the intact BBB as they function as carriers of essential nutrients into the brain. By linking transferrin with rod-shaped semiconductor nanocrystals (quantum rods) – an up and coming diagnostic agent which can also multitask as carriers of therapeutic molecules – it was found that the transferrin helps the linked quantum rods to 'sneak' across the BBB into the brain. This finding can have significant potential implications towards the development of brain-directed nanoparticle based diagnostic and therapeutic agents using minimally invasive procedures. Citation 18 

Environmental Concerns


Not enough data exists to know for sure if nanoparticles could have undesirable effects on the environment. Two areas are relevant here: (1) In free form nanoparticles can be released in the air or water during production (or production accidents) or as waste byproduct of production, and ultimately accumulate in the soil, water or plant life. (2) In fixed form, where they are part of a manufactured substance or product, they will ultimately have to be recycled or disposed of as waste. We don’t know yet if certain nanoparticles will constitute a completely new class of non-biodegradable pollutant. In case they do, we also don’t know yet how such pollutants could be removed from air or water because most traditional filters are not suitable for such tasks (their pores are too big to catch nanoparticles). Citation 18 


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