Researchers have developed a new imaging method that rapidly visualizes and identifies engineered nanoparticles in tissue, demonstrating a cost-effective means for nanomaterial analysis that may have potential health implications.

The use of nanoparticles in consumer products and industrial processes is growing, so studying the possible effects of exposure is critical to ensuring the health and safety of consumers, workers in the industry and even the environment. Particularly, the semiconductor industry makes use of metal oxide nanoparticles during production.

The material has been identified as having potential impact on the well-being of workers exposed, hence it is a key area for research. This is why the researchers chose to focus on metal oxide nanoparticles, studying how to locate them in ex vivo porcine skin tissue models. The results of their study was published in the journal Microscopy Research and Technique.

"By laying the groundwork for the most efficient means with which to visualize nano materials in great detail, we are able to better evaluate the health implications of these particles as they come into contact with humans in the work environment and beyond," said Mary Frame, one of the authors of the study.

Sara Brenner, also an author of the study, is of the belief that the imaging method they developed is a great improvement over the current standard, electron microscopy, which is not only time-consuming but also resource-intensive.

According to her, creating a quicker, more cost-effective alternative to electron microscopy can help relieve a bottleneck in nanoparticle research, and will also benefit other fields.

"We've only begun to scratch the surface of what it can do," said Brenner.

For the study, Frame provided all tissue samples imaged for research while imaging procedure itself was completed by Brenner and other researchers from the SUNY Polytechnic Institute. For the tissues to be imaged, a low-volume Franz chamber system was created, which enabled minute amounts of nanometal oxides to be used in detecting tissue penetration.

Other authors of the study include: Maria Del Pilar Sosa Peña, Adam Friedman, Abhishek Gottipati, Nicole Neu-Baker and Sahil Tahiliani.

Photo: James Millen/UCL Physics and Astronomy | Flickr

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