Nanotechnologies and Food - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Annex 1



  The 2004 the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report on nanotechnologies and subsequent United Kingdom Government reports raised concerns that the investment in research to develop new nanotechnologies is not accompanied by research addressing the health impact of these new materials in order to underpin their safe use. In the light of the recommendations in these reports the Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board wishes to encourage innovative, high quality research applications in nanotoxicology relevant to human health with the aim to help inform policy development in this important area.


  Nanotechnology involves the production and application of substances and structures at the nanoscale; within this size range substances can have very different properties when compared to material in bulk form, reflecting surface area, surface properties and quantum effects.

  While engineered nanoparticles offer significant potential benefits, there are also uncertainties with regards to potential risks to human health. This was a key finding of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report Nanoscience and Nanotechnoloaies: opportunities and uncertainties, commissioned by the United Kingdom Government and published in July 2004. The report concluded that many nanotechnologies pose no new health and safety risks. However, there were concerns over the potential impacts of engineered nanoparticles and nanotubes (in a free rather than embedded form) and these materials were identified as a priority area for research.


  In accordance with the Government response to the report, a cross-Government Nanotechnology Research Co-ordination Group (NRCG) has been set up to coordinate research efforts relating to the potential human health and environmental exposure, hazards and risks posed by the products of nanotechnologies. This work is aimed at leading to the development of an appropriate framework and measures for controlling any unacceptable risks. The NRCG's first report, published in November 2005 sets out a programme of 19 research objectives to characterise the potential risks posed by engineered nanoscale materials; Objectives 11-16 are relevant to the remit of MCMB and include research to establish: a clear understanding of the absorption of nanoparticles via lung, skin and gut, their distribution in the body and potential target tissues; inter and intracellular transport and localisation of nanoparticles and their cellular toxicity; whether oxidative stress, inflammatory effects and genotoxicity apply to nanoparticles; and the deposition, distribution, toxicity, pathogenicity and translocation potential and pathways for nanoparticles in the airways and lung and their potential impacts on the cardiovascular system and brain; A subsequent progress report was published in October 2006.

  In the light of working in partnership with the Department of Health and other stakeholders MCMB encourages innovative, high quality applications relating to the potential human health hazard of nanoparticles, focussing on areas highlighted in the above Government reports. Since launch of the nanotoxicology highlight notice four awards were made (Nanotoxicology Awards). In the light of these recent awards, MCMB now wishes to encourage in particular proposals which investigate the health impact of nanoparticles in vivo or aim to validate in vitro tests against in vivo models with a particular emphasis on studies addressing the mechanisms of toxicity. This is in accordance with the recommendations of the recent Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution report (2008) on Novel Materials in the Environment: The case of Nanotechnology.


  Applications are invited through the normal MRC funding schemes and will be considered at the regular MCMB Board meetings. These will be in competition with other applications received, but the Board will be mindful of the policy importance of this area to Government.

17 July 2009

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