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Study indicates that nanoparticles cause brain damage in fish


September 19, 2011

A new study suggests that exposure to titanium oxide nanoparticles causes rainbow trout to develop holes in their brains

A new study suggests that exposure to titanium oxide nanoparticles causes rainbow trout to develop holes in their brains

In just the past few years, nanotechnology has brought technological advances in almost every field imaginable - patches that regenerate heart tissue, water-powered batteries and better biofuels are just a few examples. As with just about any new technology, however, concerns have been raised regarding its safety. We've never experienced anything quite like it before, so how far should we trust it? According to a recent study conducted at the University of Plymouth, the answer to that question might be "Not very far." In tests on rainbow trout, titanium oxide nanoparticles were found to cause damage to the brain and other parts of the central nervous system.

Titanium oxide nanoparticles are used in a number of applications including paints, vitamins, personal care products such as sunscreen and cosmetics, and possibly soon in food products. After being subjected to these nanoparticles, the trout developed vacuoles (holes) in parts of their brains, and some of their brain cells died. Although past tests on cell cultures and other in vitro systems have suggested possible harmful effects of nanoparticles, this is reportedly the first time that such effects have been confirmed in a live vertebrate.

So far, it isn't clear whether or not the nanoparticles actually entered the fishes' brains, or if the holes were caused by their presence elsewhere in the trouts' systems. There is currently no word on how many fish were tested, or under what conditions.

"It is worrying that the effects on the fish brain caused by these nanoparticles have some parallels with other substances like mercury poisoning, and one concern is that the materials may bioaccumulate and present a progressive or persistent hazard to wildlife and to humans", said the University of Plymouth's Prof. Richard Handy, who led the research.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

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Ironic, because nanobots are being created to get rid of the very thing this article \'is talking about\'.

Renārs Grebežs

Certain mineral pigments have been ground to nanoparticles for centuries, without any notable ill effects.

They tested Titanium oxide nanoparticles, did not say how they were introduced into the fish, and the conclusion seems a little over broad. IE Mercury causes retardation, physical defects, and death, so we should ban all metal use.

More study, Yes Ban Titanium oxide nanoparticles, Maybe. Ban all nanoparticles, No


And right below this article is another Gizmag story about \"Painting brain tumors with nanoparticles may help defeat cancer\" and \"nanoparticles promise to end toxic chemotherapy treatments\"... ugh.

Matt Rings

When reporting on studies, please provide a link to the actual study; or at least give us a reference we could follow to get to it. Studies can be both well- and poorly-conceived. A journalist's write-up can distort findings, or report them as clear-cut when in fact they may not be at all. I'm no fan or nanoparticles, but citing a study where the number of subjects is unknown, and there is no description at all of what their being "subjected to nanoparticles" actually involved is totally ridiculous. For all we know the nanoparticles were injected into their brains via an air-gun, the technique of administration of which would have created the vacuoles rather than the nanoparticles themselves. No, I'm not saying that's what was done, I'm saying we have no idea of what was done. Without knowing something about the study (besides the fact that it involved fish and nanoparticles) no sane person could draw any conclusions from it whatsoever.

[The study is being presented at the 6th International Meeting on the Environmental Effects on Nanoparticles and Nanomaterials at the Royal Society in London later this week, so there is currently nothing published for us to link to -Ed]

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