Swiss researchers at the University of Geneva and University of Fribourg have developed a rapid technique for evaluating the safety of nanoparticles for the human body. Currently, this process often takes months, which is much too long when new nanoparticles are being developed at a rapid rate. Moreover, it can take many months to confirm that a new nanoparticle is doing something that’s desired, but which is then discarded after a side effect is spotted.
“Researchers can spend years developing a nanoparticle, without knowing what impact it will have on a living organism,” said Carole Bourquin, lead author of the study and professor at University of Geneva, in a statement.
“So there was a real need to design an effective screening method that could be implemented at the beginning of the development process. Indeed, if the nanoparticles aren’t compatible, several years of research were simply thrown away.
The new technique evaluates both the toxicity of nanoparticles on the human body, and also whether the nanoparticles get noticed and targeted by the immune system. Moreover, it spots whether macrophages are able to swallow the nanoparticles whole, another important indicator whether the nanoparticles are able to move through the body unhindered.
The nanoparticles are introduced to macrophages for 24 hours, allowing them to interact. Following this, flow cytometry is used to count the number of nanoparticles and macrophages, as well as how many were ingested by the other, and how activated the macrophages are in terms of immune response.
As the researchers stated in their paper in journal Nanoscale, this simultaneously answers three important questions: “Are the NP [nanoparticles] taken up by macrophages? Do the NP cause macrophage cell death? Do the NP induce inflammatory reactions?”
The researchers believe that this new technique will alleviate a good deal of animal testing, while reducing costs and bringing new nanoparticles into use much sooner.