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Posted: November 30, 2006
Buckyball clumps damage human DNA
(Nanowerk News) Not so long ago, the notion that particles 80,000 times thinner than a human hair could somehow self-assemble and cause harmful effects in the water, air and perhaps even cells seemed far-fetched. But today the quest to understand nanoparticles and other emerging contaminants and discover ways to cope with them is one of the hottest and most critical areas in chemistry research.
More than 40 scientific papers on an array of these potentially problematic compounds - including pharmaceuticals, disinfectant by-products and fluorochemicals - are highlighted in the Dec. 1 issue of the American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science & Technology. These articles examine what chemists and engineers are learning about emerging contaminants as well as what can be done to remediate those already in the environment and prevent others from getting there.
Buckyballs that clump together in water can induce DNA damage in human lymphocytes, according to Volodymyr Tarabara, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Michigan State University and India's Industrial Toxicology Research Centre. The study, believed to be the first of its kind, raises new concerns about the potential risk these nanoparticles pose to human health and the environment, the researchers say.
A buckyball is a spherical fullerene - a soccer ball-shaped molecule comprised of 60 carbon atoms. Buckyballs have been touted for their potential applications in everything from drug delivery to energy transmission. But recent studies have shown that when buckyballs combine into nano-sized clumps known as nC60, they can promote cellular damage. This new study goes a step further, demonstrating "a strong correlation between the presence of nC60 and DNA damage" to human lymphocytes, the researchers conclude. The study is the first to assess the genotoxicity of nC60 mixed into water. Water is a likely pathway for future human exposure to buckyballs and other nanoparticles, Tarabara says.