(Sept. 7, 2011)
An East Carolina University toxicologist is studying the health risks associated with nanoparticle exposure with help from a $143,308 grant.
Dr. Jared Brown, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Brody School of Medicine, received the grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center.
Brown's area of study is carbon nanotubes and the nascent study of nanomaterials' effects on the human body. Smaller than 1/1000th of a millimeter, carbon nanotubes are tube-shaped fibers that have proved useful in products as varied as cosmetics, sunscreens, bicycle frames, electronics, sailboats, space shuttles and pills. They've even been used to clean up oil spills. But not much is known about any long-term hazards from inhaling nanomaterials during their manufacture or use.
The grant monies will be used to set up an inhalation system at ECU for aerosolizing nanomaterials. "This will allow us to mimic 'real-world' occupational exposures to nanomaterials and allow us to better assess the potential toxicity of multiple types of nanomaterials," Brown said. "We hope our work will guide regulatory agencies in setting guidelines on the level of nanomaterial exposure in occupational settings and thereby prevent any health complications from exposure to these novel materials."
Dr. Dianne Walters, an assistant professor of physiology at ECU, is co-principal investigator on the grant. Drs. Chris Wingard, Bob Lust, Dave Brown, Alex Murashov and Mike Van Scott of the physiology department are collaborators.
Brown's grant was one of 12 Institutional Development Grants the Biotechnology Center awarded recently totaling nearly $1.4 million. Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of North Carolina Wilmington also received grants.
Last year, Brown received a $75,000 grant from the Biotechnology Center. He also received a $2.2 million grant as one of a half-dozen researchers to be awarded an Outstanding New Environmental Scientist Award by the National Institutes of Health.
Brown is also a project leader for an NIH-funded Center for Nanotechnology Health Implications. The center consists of ECU, Research Triangle Institute and the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park. It is one of five centers around the United States to be awarded $3.75 million to develop a model for predicting which properties of nanomaterials may lead to toxicity.
NCBC is a private, non-profit corporation supported by the N.C. General Assembly. Its mission is to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business, education and strategic policy statewide.
(Read more about Brown and his research at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/dhs/mission/emerging_research.cfm