22 March 2013 | General, MPNS
How to define the relationship between nanostructures and their toxicity?

This is a key question in order to identify the best balance between commercial development of these high value materials on the one hand, and protection of workers, the public, and the environment from adverse effects on the other…

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In April 2011 the COST Exploratory Workshop on Quantitative Nanostructure-Toxicity Relationships (QNTR) brought together policy-makers, researchers and experts to discuss the roadblocks to achieving useful models for assessing nanoparticle risks, and methods for overcoming them.

The workshop resulted in a ten-year plan defining steps to produce software based on QNTR for predicting the health effects of manufactured nanomaterials, and promised to deliver two milestones: firstly, a peer-reviewed publication and, secondly, a COST Action proposal to support the international Community of Practice, specifically by exchange of staff between key laboratories to fast-track international efforts in QNTR.

A recent peer-reviewed publication by Winkler, D.A., et al. recently appeared in Toxicology (2012): ‘Applying quantitative structure–activity relationship approaches to nanotoxicology: Current status and future potential’ to tackle the issue.

The article claims that a number of tasks need to be completed in order to create models useful for nanoparticle regulation within the ten-year timeframe requested by regulators:

  1. Firstly, there is a need to maintain and expand the network of experimental and computational researchers, regulators and policy-makers on this topic. This will be the objective of the newly-launched COST Action TD1204 ‘Modelling Nanomaterial Toxicity’ (MODENA), a science and technology network directly stemming from the QNTR COST Exploratory Workshop.
  2. Secondly, it is essential that the needs of the end-users of the experimental and modeling research outcomes remain a prominent driver for the work.
  3. Thirdly, it is important to focus on high throughput experimentation. This will provide the essential data required for the QNTR models, will elucidate the various effects of nanoparticles, and will increase knowledge of how nanoparticles enter, move through, and affect the biology of human and environmental systems.
  4. Finally, a funding mechanism needs to be developed to support a strong collaborative network of stakeholders, and to fund the research component of the work to be done.

Achieving these four important elements can help guarantee that the computational models developed, and increased knowledge of nanoparticle behaviour in biological systems, will generate outcomes that will assist regulators to assess nanoparticle risk within a ten-year timeframe.

The COST QNTR Exploratory Workshop provided substantial scientific and intellectual input to this publication and fertile ground for experts to submit a proposal for the recently-approved COST Action MODENA.