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Environmental Factor

July 2011

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NIEHS nano consortium meets for progress updates

By Thaddeus Schug
July 2011

Chris Wingard, Ph.D., Tim Fennell, Ph.D., and Apparao Rao, Ph.D.

Shown left to right, Chris Wingard, Ph.D., Tim Fennell, Ph.D., and Apparao Rao, Ph.D., discuss nanomaterial health and safety during the poster session on day one. (Photo Courtesy of Elena Reitman)

Sri Nadadur, Ph.D., David Scoville, and Terry Kavanagh, Ph.D.

Nadadur, left, graduate student David Scoville, center, and Terry Kavanagh, Ph.D., talked during the poster session. Kavanagh, who studies the risks associated with quantum dot exposure, hosted the meeting at the newly renovated University of Washington Medical Campus. (Photo Courtesy of Elena Reitman)

David Eaton, Ph.D., and Terry Gordon

David Eaton, Ph.D., left, and Terry Gordon, right, interact during one of several discussion sessions. (Photo Courtesy of Elena Reitman)

Members of the NIEHS nanotechnology consortium gathered at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, June 15-16 for the second official meeting of the group to cover research progress updates and hold a meeting for the Steering Committee. The NIEHS Centers for Nanotechnology Health Implications Research (NCNHIR) Consortium Meeting offered an opportunity for grantees from NIEHS programs, including Nano Grand Opportunities (NanoGO), Challenge Grant, Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES), and Research Project Grant (R01), to share and integrate data.

Sri Nadadur, Ph.D., the meeting organizer and the health scientist administrator at NIEHS who oversees much of the Institute's portfolio on nanomaterials in health and safety, said of the programs, "We are beginning to see progress in both the individual research projects and in meeting the overall goals of the consortium." Nadadur added, "This group of scientists provides a wide range of expertise for us to investigate the unknown health and safety implications associated with nanomaterials."

Use and applications on the rise

Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) represent a significant breakthrough in material design and development for medicine, industry, and consumer products. According to experts at the meeting, global demand for nanomaterials and nano-enabled devices is estimated to approach $3.1 trillion by 2015. This increased production provides expanded opportunities for exposures, with unknown health consequences that are critical for scientists to better understand.

Jerry Heindel, Ph.D., acting chief of the Cellular, Organs, and Systems Pathobiology Branch of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training, opened the meeting by stating, "NIEHS has provided a tremendous opportunity for investigators to work together to solve complicated issues that could not be addressed in individual research laboratories." Heindel added, "We are relying on you to pool together your resources and brain power and to work as a team so that we can better understand nanomaterial health and safety."

During the two-day meeting, consortium scientists presented brief updates on their individual program projects, while focusing on their collaborative efforts within the consortium. Presentations were also given by Scott McNeal, Ph.D., of the Nanotechnology Characterization Lab (NCL), which is providing expertise on the characterization of ENMs investigated by the centers, and Jeffery Zink, Ph.D., a principal investigator in the University of California, Los Angeles scientific core. Day one concluded with a poster session featuring displays from graduate students, postdocs, and other members of the Environmental Sciences Nano Consortium.

A major portion of day two was dedicated for Steering Committee deliberations to identify common areas of research involving the ENMs and risk assessment systems being investigated by the consortium. Steering Committee deliberations will continue through monthly conference calls to further focus consortium efforts on identifying physical and chemical properties of ENMs, as well as their implications for human health. Also participating in the meeting were members of the External Advisory Committee, and Program Advisory Scientists. The next face-to-face meeting of the NCNHIR consortiums will be held at NIEHS during the winter of 2011-12.

(Thaddeus Schug, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow in the NIEHS Laboratory of Signal Transduction and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor. He is currently on detail as a program analyst in the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training.)

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