Dr. Ramune Reliene, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University at Albany School of Public Health and Cancer Research Center, has been awarded a $149,995 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to conduct studies in genetically engineered mouse models. Dr. Reliene’s research will examine whether exposure to silver nanoparticles (AgNPs), often referred to as nanosilver, induce DNA damage and mutations, leading to cancer.
A wide variety of nanotechnology products were introduced to the markets without evaluations of their safety. For example, due to unique antibacterial and antifungal properties, AgNPs are used in toothpaste and dental care solutions, cosmetics, disinfectants and laundry detergents, home appliances (vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners and air purifiers), clothing and sporting goods, and food contact materials (food storage containers and bags, cutting boards, baby bottles and sippy cups). In addition to consumer products, AgNPs are used in medical products such as wound dressings, medical catheters, orthopedic implants, neuro-surgery shunts, suturing materials and dental instruments. Different kinds of AgNPs are used in consumer and medical products. In particular, AgNPs differ in their size and coating material used as nanoparticle stabilizer and dispersant. The nature of the coating material influences the biological effect. Some of the coatings may make nanoparticles less toxic or, conversely, more toxic.
Dr. Reliene and her colleagues aim to determine if orally interested AgNPs are genotoxic and identify most harmful AgNPs. They will use a battery of genotoxicity tests and DNA microarray and PCR array technologies to understand the toxic mechanisms of AgNPs. These studies will aid understanding of the possible cancer risks of nanotechnology-based consumer and medical products and the design of safer nanoparticles.