Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nano and asbestos? A closer look from ICON ...

to nanopublic post from 5/20/08:

ICON at Rice University has produced an excellent background document, discussing the methodologies and adequate interpretations of the two studies comparing responses in mice to multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT or MWNT) and certain asbestos fibers

Here's the section from the ICON report on interpreting the results :
"These studies do not address whether humans may be exposed to MWCNT in a way that causes disease. While more research is needed to understand the potential implications of this work for human health, the two studies taken together point to the need for a careful assessment of the potential for MWCNT to cause injury to humans. The many outstanding questions that these papers raise include

* How dose is measured for MWCNT and what constitutes an appropriate dose in mice to correlate with human risk;
* The role of metals within the nanotube samples. (The Nature Nanotechnology study found that metals derived from the MWCNT could not explain the different effects of exposure to long straight vs. short tangled MWCNT. The J. Tox. Sci. study did not rule out the iron contaminant within the MWCNT samples as the agent responsible for promoting the formation of the cancerous lesions.)
* Whether short, tangled MWCNT, which are non-fibrous, have a toxic effect unrelated to effects associated with exposure to fiber-like particles;
* Whether MWCNT can persist long enough in the body and migrate to the mesothelium to induce the effects seen here in mice;
* Whether humans can be exposed to MWCNT in quantities sufficient to induce the effect seen here in mice.

Despite these caveats both groups of authors believe that their findings are important for understanding the potential hazards of MWCNT and should inform industrial risk management practices so that exposure to humans is limited. As they note, without exposure there is no risk, even if the substance is very hazardous."
(Click here for Kristen Kulinowski's full report.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

First nano newswave: Of mice, nano, and asbestos

Nanotech may soon have its very own Losey butterfly study. Tomorrow morning will bring the first substantive wave of mainstream news coverage focusing on nano risks. The trigger? A forthcoming letter in Nature Nanotechnology, comparing the health risks of some carbon nanotubes to those of asbestos. The "nano as the next asbestos" analogies are not new, of course, but the Nature Nanotech study is one of the first to back the news frames with peer-reviewed science.

See relevant coverage in the today's late editions or tomorrow's early editions of the the Financial Times, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

"Sights Unseen:" Vegan soup and nano visuals

UW-Madison press release:

In May, 14 striking, larger-than-life photographic prints that are both comfortingly organic and starkly abstract will enable patrons of Mother Fool's Coffeehouse in Madison to visualize a scientific world that's rarely seen outside the laboratory.

"Sights Unseen: Images of the Nanoscale" is an art exhibit featuring research images captured by faculty, staff and students in UW-Madison's National Science Foundation-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center on Nanostructured Interfaces and the NSF-funded Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. The exhibit runs throughout May, with an opening reception from 7-9 p.m. on Sunday, May 4, at the coffeehouse, 1101 Williamson St.

Nanotechnology is a new area in science and engineering that deals with incredibly small materials. These materials are on the scale of nanometers, a billion of a meter. (A one-gallon can of paint, painted one nanometer thick, would cover the entire UW-Madison campus.)

Materials at this super-small scale can behave in new ways. For example, nanoscale gold is red, and nanoscale aluminum spontaneously combusts. Scientists and engineers hope to use these unique properties in new and improved applications, ranging from faster computers to cancer-fighting medical treatments.

The pictures in the "Sights Unseen" exhibit bring this super-small world into the limelight by showcasing its beauty. Among the images are black-and-white nano-sized rods that look like massive trees toppled by a strong wind, and a computer-generated representation of data that resembles psychedelic posters from the '70s.

Mother Fools Coffeehouse's hours are 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-11 p.m. weekends.