Biological Implications of Nanotechnology
There has been a rapid proliferation of different types of nanomaterials in which very minute changes in the surface chemistry or size of the nanomaterials can lead to radically different biological interactions and effects. Nanotechnology is fueling the next industrial revolution. Lux Research estimates that the advantages offered by nanotechnology will result in a $2.6 trillion industry by 2014. Products such as computer chips, batteries, transistors, and novel drug delivery systems are being joined by facial creams, chocolate, ski wax, and disinfectant cleaners on the list of everyday products which utilize nanoparticles. Such rapid growth of the nanotechnology industry will obviously result in increased exposure of humans and the environment to nanomaterials.
The concern is that evaluations on the environmental, health and safety aspects of these materials are lagging behind this rapid commercialization of consumer products. It is pertinent at this critical juncture, the early stages of the nanotechnology industry, that we make every effort to ensure that the entirely new properties of novel nanomaterials are understood scientifically. The biological activity of nanomaterials will depend on inherent physicochemical properties not routinely considered in toxicity studies. Thus, there is a need to provide the critical information on potential biological and environmental impacts of newly emerging nanomaterials and nano-scale products.
Delineating nanomaterials that are biologically active, and those that are not, is essential to identifying inherent properties that are predictive of biological responses, and consequentially, the material modifications that can minimize hazard or optimize targeted therapeutics.
It is our belief that the next evolution of scientific theory will likely address questions that can only be answered using collaborative, intelligent expert systems that can: