Horizon 202029.01.2018

EU project to improve engineered nanomaterial safety

The Adolphe Merkle Institute has joined an international effort addressing the need for safer and more effective testing of engineered nanomaterials (ENM), an area that is of crucial and growing importance to billion-franc markets including cosmetics, electronics, medicine and food.

The AMI BioNanomaterials co-chair Professor Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser will serve as a module leader (Advanced in vitro pulmonary models for ENM assessment) of a new €12.7 million (CHF 14.8 million) global project,


, financed by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 initiative, and led by Swansea University.

The nanotechnology industry promises significant scientific, economic and societal benefits, but commercialisation and growth are threatened by safety uncertainties. Whether engineered nanomaterials present a risk to human and environmental health is still open to debate. However, at present, the test methods used to assess this risk are inadequate and unrealistic. Current test systems utilise scientific models that lack the detail and complexity of the environment and the human body, and only consider the effects of short-term ENM exposure which does not reflect realistic extended or repeated exposure scenarios.

The Physiologically Anchored Tools for Realistic nanOmateriaL hazard aSsessment (PATROLS) project involves 24 partners, across Europe, the United States and Asia with representatives from academia, industry and government. The project is coordinated by Profs Shareen Doak, Professor of Genotoxicology & Cancer at Swansea University Medical School in Britain. Over the next three-and-a-half years, the PATROLS scientists aim to establish a battery of innovative, next-generation safety testing tools that more accurately predict adverse effects caused by long-term ENM exposure in humans and the environment.

PATROLS aims to address current nanosafety testing issues by:

  • Producing realistic and predictive cultured 3D tissue models of the lung, gastrointestinal tract and liver for ENM safety assessment.
  • Developing innovative methods for safety assessment in ecologically relevant test systems and organisms, selected according to their position in the food chain.
  • Characterising ENMs under relevant experimental conditions dictated by the advanced human and environmental models developed.
  • Creating robust computational methods for ENM exposure, dose modelling and hazard prediction.

According to Professor Doak, the cutting-edge models, hazard reporter tests and computational methods developed through PATROLS will allow ENMs to be categorised based on their human and environmental risk. The improved predictivity of the tools generated will help to minimise uncertainty in ENM safety she adds. Furthermore, the PATROLS toolbox will provide effective data to support and enhance the current ENM safety evaluation

AMI Professor Rothen-Ruishauser says this project integrates perfectly with her ongoing research. "This joint action together with the highest calibre experts in nanosafety and inhalative hazard assessment will enable to establish robust and predictive multi-cellular lung models with a strong impact for ENM safety testing in the future," she points out.

PATROLS launched on January 1, 2018.  On January 29-30, the international consortium including academic, industrial, government and risk assessment partners involved in the project gathered in Swansea to discuss developments.