For her proposal “The added risk of size at the nano-bio interface: quantifying uptake, internal localization and partitioning of metal-based nanoparticles in aquatic organisms”, Dr. Martina Vijver has been awarded a Vidi grant as part of NWO’s Innovation Research Incentives scheme.
Summary of research proposal
Metal-based nanoparticles (NPs) are used in ever more products, which in their end-of-life phase are likely to end up in the aquatic environment. The potential for adverse biological effects is thus increasing and the need for risk assessment hence urgent. Current environmental risk assessment is inadequate for NPs, which owing to their small size have unique characteristics such as a relatively large surface area and high reactivity and hence behave differently from dissolved metals and from sub-micron-sized metals.
Evidence to date indicates that metal-based NPs can be transported into cells via different routes than ions and sub-micron-sized particles. Medical research has shown that interactions between NPs and organisms are far more target-oriented and determined more by organism morphology and physiology than in the case of ‘regular’ chemicals. To date, however, there is little understanding of processes at the nano-bio interface at either the organism or cell level. To fill this gap, the proposed research seeks to understand how NP properties influence uptake and subsequently induce toxicity across a range of aquatic organisms and quantify the differences and similarities between ions, sub-micron-sized metals and NPs.
This project will yield 1) a model for NP toxicity respecting the contributions of metal ions and particles to uptake, 2) mechanistic insight into uptake and modes of action, 3) extrapolation to morphologically and physiologically related but as yet untested species using an ecological trait-based approach. Dr. Vijver proposes a rigorous assessment combining novel state-of-the-art techniques, thereby linking her ecotoxicological expertise to the microscopy facilities at “nanoscope hotspots” such as the Cell Observatory located in Leiden.
A particular strength of this proposal is its valorization potential for new NP risk policies: it will fill in key gaps in scientific knowledge, allowing for improved explanation of ecotoxicological effects, and hence enhanced assessment of nanoparticle risks.