NanoPUZZLES consortium can solve challenging problems
There are still many challenges and ‘technical’ problems to be solved to be able to widely apply computational methods of risk assessment to engineered nanoparticles. The problems include:
• scarce and/or inconsistent experimental data available and lack of conceptual frameworks for grouping nanoparticles according to mode of physicochemical properties and toxic action;
• lack of appropriate descriptors able to express specificity of “nano” structure, to be utilized for grouping based on structural similarities and QSAR modelling of nanoparticles;
• limited knowledge on the interactions between nanoparticles and biological systems (DNA, proteins, membranes etc.), these interactions lead to the formation of protein coronas, particle wrapping, intercellular uptake and biocatalytic processes that could have biocompatibile or bioadverse effects – thus, the real structure of the active nanoparticle can be different than the structure, for which the descriptors have been calculated;
• lack of rational structure-activity modelling procedures (QSAR) to screen large numbers of nanoparticles for nanotoxicity and hazard assessment, the existing methods and modelling protocols should be specifically profiled for nanoparticles, regarding size-dependent differences between the bulk and nanostructure.
The NanoPUZZLES project is proposing some novel lines of research which will fill the gaps in knowledge and predictive methodology in a field of nanoscience. We need to ensure that nanotechnology research is carried out with maximum impact and responsibility and that the resulting knowledge is based on an understanding of properties of nanomaterials and on a controlled exposure to the materials.
Scientists committed in the NanoPUZZLES project consortium have been involved in studies devoted to the development of robust systems to computationally evaluate the properties as well as the health and environmental impact of engineered nanomaterials for the last three years. In effect, many currently published contributions presenting novel ideas in the area of computational toxicity of nanoparticles are authored or co-authored by them.