Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"NANOTECH: Computer models how nanoparticles harm cells"

Until now, the mechanism that causes living cells to malfunction in the presence of buckyballs has been misunderstood, according to the creators of perhaps the world's most accurate computer model for living-cell membranes. These scientists now claim to have attained an understanding of the probable mechanism for how buckyballs can invade cells and cause a wide variety of damage. For half a decade, scientists have warned that nanoparticles have a strong affinity for animal DNA, attaching to it in a manner that prevents immune responses and even self-repair of cells. Experimental evidence has confirmed that buckyballs in our rivers can clog the gills of fish and damage their brains; that nanoparticles in groundwater can stunt the growth of plant roots; and, just last week, that inhaling nanotubes can result in the same kind of maladies that are caused by asbestos. Despite mounting evidence of toxicity for almost every shape and size nanoparticle--from long-thin nanotubes to spherical buckyballs--nanoparticles are nevertheless being mass produced for a variety of applications, from transparent sunscreen that is opaque in the ultraviolet to performance-enhancing dopants for solar cells.