The safe use of nanomaterials
A 60 page report recently published by the German Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (DECHEMA) and the Chemical Industry Association (VCI) offers an overview of research projects conducted during the last decade on the subject of nanosafety. It covers six Swiss, 40 German, one US and 25 EU projects. In one of these projects Empa, together with the Cantonal Hospital of St Gallen, investigated whether nanoparticles can pass through the human placenta and enter the circulatory system of an unborn baby. Toxicologists from Empas «Materials meet Life» laboratory studied human placentas (donated by mothers immediately after giving birth) to evaluate how good a barrier they represent. Their experiments showed that particles with diameters of less than 200 to 300 nm could pass through into the fetal bloodstream. The question is, does this damage placental tissue or possibly have an influence on the development of the unborn child? At the same time, looking on the positive side, it is possible to imagine the transport of nanovehicles through the placenta as a means of delivering targeted treatment to the baby while it is still in the womb.