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February 18th, 2008

Toxic onions

Abstract:
There are plenty of scare stories about health problems caused by nanotechnology, but where does the truth lie? Frank Chen, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has developed a way to predict and evaluate the effects of exposure to a particular nanomaterial on human skin cells.

Once the skin cells have been exposed, Chen uses computerised image analysis to see whether the cells are dying, and genome analysis to see which genes have been switched on or off.

The method shows that cells are killed by large doses of "multiwall carbon nano-onions" (many-layered versions of spherical carbon buckyballs). In the process, genes involved in cellular transport, metabolism, cell cycle regulation and stress response become activated.

There is an upside, however. Chen suggests that multiwall carbon nano-onions are so toxic that they could be used for killing off cancer cells.

Source:
newscientist.com

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