Sarah: The recent publication of a research paper describing asbestosis-like pathological changes in mice exposed to carbon nanotubes has captured world attention. Nothing like a bit of bad news to get everyone focussed on nanotechnology, huh?!
The new study was performed by an alliance of researchers from the USA and the UK, and involved injecting multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) into the abdominal cavities of mice. In this animal model, long, rigid MWNTs were found to trigger chronic inflammatory changes in abdominal mesothelial cells, a response comparable to that seen in control mice injected with asbestos fibres. A similar inflammatory response is thought to lead to fatal mesothelioma in some humans exposed to asbestos. Taken in a very broad sense, the findings suggests that human exposure to long, rigid MWNTs could have consequences that we do not yet fully understand. Clearly further studies do need to be conducted in this area. Interestingly, short MWNTs and single-walled carbon nanotubes had no apparent deleterious effects under the same study conditions. So let’s not shut the door on carbon nanotubes just yet…..
……..but now that everyone is watching, what’s going to happen next? Well for a start nanotechnology researchers and industries relying on the future of nanotechnology do need to take studies such as this into account. Social and environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth have a strong and informed involvement in the nanotechnology debate; they are already calling for greater public involvement in nanotechnology research and believe that the health implications of exposure to nano-sized materials need to be better characterised. Public forums like that recently conducted by the Australian Office of Nanotechnology may assist in this regard. I am interested as to whether any general news agencies picked up this story: use the comments option on this blog to let me know if you heard or saw wind of this research on your local radio or news stations. Let’s get a discussion going!
Originally published on Blog@NanoVic for Nanotechnology Victoria.
Comments to the original blog included:
I just found a story related to this study on the ABC News website. See http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/05/21/2251171.htm
…and another on the BBC website. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7408705.stm
A story from New Scientist also discusses this paper, and mentions another study to be published soon which provides evidence that airborne nanotubes do not induce lung inflammation in mice. http://www.newscientist.com/channel/health/dn13946-nanotubes-toxic-effects-similar-to-asbestos.html
A couple more for the collection: