Are nanomaterials linked to lung cancer?

Are nanomaterials linked to lung cancer?

Nanotechnology deals with manipulating matter and creating devices from materials that are molecular in size. Carbon nanomaterials are widely used in commercial and biomedical applications, including consumer electronics and medication delivery. But little is known about the health effects of these materials on those who work around them or use the products containing them.

Yon Rojanasakul, PhD
Yon Rojanasakul, PhD, professor in the Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, is leading novel research to determine if engineered nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs), may be linked to lung cancer.

WVU researchers have developed novel experimental models to predict the long-term health effects of nanoparticle exposure. “I am particularly concerned about the potential carcinogenic effects of CNTs because of their structural similarity to asbestos, a known human carcinogen causing lung cancer and mesothelioma,” Yon Rojanasakul, PhD, said. “Both materials are thin and long and able to penetrate lung tissue; and people who work in industries that use these materials are exposed to them by inhaling them.”

Another part of the study will involve identifying the key characteristics of CNTs that may contribute to cancer development. “We also hope to identify cancer biomarkers specific to CNT exposure.”

The overall goal of the research is to be able to determine early on what the potential health effects of CNT exposure are so that prevention strategies can be developed. The study can also be used to help design better and safer nanotech products.

The WVU study is funded by a $1.4 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institute of Health. Joining Rojanasakul as grant participants are Vincent Castranova, PhD, Liying Wang, PhD, and Robert Mercer, PhD, of NIOSH, and Nick Wu, PhD, of the WVU College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.