I confess to being a bit amused, I admit (apart from the rabbit business…see below). This morning I read a couple of Science Daily updates where I found two conflicting items. The first (, dated April 3, was about the potential risks involved in nanotechnology. It just so happens that yesterday I added a link to a study on nanocurcumin sent to me by a blog reader (thanks!). See under "useful links."

At any rate, the Science Daily article discusses a University of Oregon chemist’s concern about the potential hazards and lack of information concerning nanotechnology.

An excerpt ("he" is the UO chemist, by the way): Nanomaterials are complex, as are their interactions with biological organisms and the environment. While microscopically sized, they come in all sizes, shapes and compositions. "To confound the situation further," he writes, "the methods of production are still immature for most materials, often resulting in batch-to-batch variability in composition and purity." Impurities, he says, are hard to detect, difficult to extract and may obscure the real effects of nanomaterials. Nanoimpurities? Yikes!

Interestingly, this scientist is pushing for a green chemistry approach, which simplifies purification processes. Well, I am certainly all in favour of solving problems before they occur, and using an environmentally friendly approach makes a lot of sense to me.

Now for the second article. published on the following day ( It discusses the effect of nanotechnology on tumours. Unlike the University of Oregon piece, this article talks exclusively about the benefits of nanotechnology. As follows.

A group of researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis) tested a powerful drug directly on tumors  in rabbits (aaagh! ) using drug-coated nanoparticles. They found that a drug dose 1,000 times lower than used previously for this purpose markedly slowed tumor growth. "Many chemotherapeutic drugs have unwanted side effects, and we’ve shown that our nanoparticle technology has the potential to increase drug effectiveness and decrease drug dose to alleviate harmful side effects," says lead author Patrick M. Winter, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine and biomedical engineering.

By the way, these nanoparticles contained a fungal toxin called fumagillin, which has been shown to be an effective cancer treatment, so the article states, in human clinical trials in combination with other drugs. The process whereby the tumours’ growth was slowed down is interesting: the nanoparticles latched on to sites of blood vessel proliferation and released their fumagillin load into blood vessel cells. Fumagillin blocks multiplication of blood vessel cells, so it inhibited tumors from expanding their blood supply and slowed their growth.

Aha, so fumagillin inhibits angiogenesis…very interesting. I will have to have a closer look at this toxin at some point.

Well, nanotechnology is interesting on many levels, but I have to admit that the issue of nanocrud (I just coined this term, you may use it with my permission…) does make me wary. I guess I won’t be testing nanocurcumin any time soon…

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