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A multidisciplinary team at Trinity College Dublin from the School of Medicine and CRANN, the ScienceFoundation Ireland funded nanoscience institute, has developed a new screening approach to test the safety of nanomaterials and their effects on human cells. This research, which will have a significant impact across the many industries that utilize nanotechnology, was published in leading Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group) earlier this year.

Nanomaterials are particles tens of thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair, which given their size and unique characteristics, have the potential to transform manufacturing. Certain nanomaterials could be used in the development of medical devices, including personalized drug delivery treatments, highly sensitive diagnostic screening against cancer and multifunctional treatment of autoimmune conditions.

CRANN researchers Professor Yuri Volkov and Dr. Adriele Prina-Mello and their team focused on the citrullination reaction, a post-translational modification of the amino acid arginine from its normal status in proteins into the amino acid citrulline. Citrulline, in turn, is a molecule which can cause inflammation in the body.

Dr. Adriele Prina-Mello said, “Our results show that by controlling how we produce nanomaterials, we can ensure their safety. This will ultimately pave the way for the use of customized materials such as “safety-proof” modified carbon nanotubes in future health applications, like smart drug delivery systems for cancer and diabetes treatment and non-invasive sensitive diagnostics, medical imaging and exploratory keyhole surgery”.

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