Project Details Recent advances in nanoparticles and colloidal systems and their impact on human health

Project No.:
Start Date:
23 May 2013
End Date:
10 August 2018


The nanoparticles and colloids field is a fast-growing research area bridging the fundamental principles of chemistry with physics and biology. Nanotechnological research has already led to significant breakthroughs, and the development of health-related products with novel features is a top application field for both in vitro and in vivo applications. Biocompatibility of nanostructures depends on their chemical composition, surface behaviour, solubility, size and other parameters. However, for some of the nanomaterial used in health-related applications, the analytical and toxicological data are very incomplete. Moreover, the increasing use of nanotechnology can be expected to affect environmental health of plants, animals and humans. The specific objective is to compile present knowledge, critically discuss and reveal the scope, and especially the limits of the colloidal and nanoparticulate systems used for health applications such as drug delivery, in vivo imaging, food technology and cosmetics.


Projects 2000-007-1-400 and 2002-017-1-400, completed by the Polymer Division defined terms related to the structure and processing of inorganic, polymeric, and inorganic organic hybrid materials from precursors; and dealt with industrially important polymerization processes in dispersed systems with respect to their physical nature, mechanism of particle formation, particle morphology, size, charge and types of interparticle interactions. A current project (IUPAC 2010-051-1-700) of the Chemistry and Human Health Division (Div VII), titled “Advances in immunochemistry and applications to human health”, addresses important aspects to occupational and environmental health and depict how immunochemical applications presently improve and diversify medical diagnostics and therapeutics.

This project will add important new insights to IUPAC’s involvement in polymer science, toxicology and immunochemistry. The dissemination of this project through the extremely popular and truly global social and professional online networks will help to improve the image of chemistry in the scientific society and public. It will demonstrate IUPAC’s concern for the safe design of chemical products for the benefit of humanity.

The project will deal with following aspects:

1. Preparation of nanoparticulate systems and colloids

Classification by the material – organic, inorganic, hybrid

Classification by the preparation method

Physico-chemical properties

Surface modification and immobilization strategies to conjugate biorecognition elements to the particle surface.

Critical discussion about the challenges related to the aggregation and non-specific binding of nanomaterial used both in vivo and in vitro

2. Analytical methods for assessment of particle features

For basic characterization and quality control

For the assessment of the function of the immobilized bio-recognition elements, such as DNA and antibodies

Direct analytical tools – for fundamental characterization

Indirect and emerging analytical tools – e.g. aggregation assays

3. Human health related Applications

In vivo imaging – invasive and non-invasive

In vivo drug delivery – targeted and non-targeted, special focus on delivery to brain and related challenges to blood brain barrier

In vitro diagnostics – signal enhancement, non-specific binding

Cosmetic industry – regulation and concerns about long term health risks of nano-cosmetics

4. Nanotoxicology

Present knowledge about the parameters, affecting the toxicity of nanoparticles will be compiled in this part. On the one side, the architecture and composition of nanoparticles largely decides about their toxicologic potential.

On the other side, the reaction of biological systems is of greatest importance. This part will describe, how different organs and cell types will either allow or prevent nanostructures to cross biological organ barriers or cell membranes and how intracellular events further decide about a possible toxicity. Acute effects may be low, but chronic effects could be significant. The potential for hierarchical degradation of the particles in the organisms, and the rate at which they could be eliminated will be discussed as well.

Immunogenicity of nanoparticles

Activation of the immune system inducing inflammation, immune responses, allergy. Immunogenicity of nanoparticles used as immunotherapeutics

Immunosuppression in autoimmune diseases, improving immune responses in vaccines

Aspects of environmental toxicity of nanoparticles.

Methodology to study nanotoxicity.

The project is well confined within IUPAC goals. It fosters interdivisional collaboration (between Division IV, Polymer, and Division VII, Chemistry and Human Health). It is designed to facilitate the research advances in nanotechnology and in the chemical sciences. This will be demonstrated on relevant examples from chemistry, medicine and biomedical science and common examples from every-day products. It will be summarized as one scientific technical report and one Lay report. It will be of educational character and satisfy the educational needs of chemists, other scientists and wide public around the globe.


Jan 2014 – Project announcement published in Chem. Int. Jan-Feb 2014, p. 17; DOI: 10.1515/ci.2014.36.1.17a.

Jan 2017 – Two separate technical reports have been submitted to PAC with the following title:
– Engineered Nanomaterials and Human Health: Preparation, Functionalization and Analytical characterization, and
– Engineered Nanomaterials and Human Health: Applications and Nanotoxicology

May 2017 – Cover feature titled “Nanomaterials – On the brink of revolution? or the endless pursuit of something unattainable?”, published in Chem Int April 2017, pp. 10-13;

August 2018 – Two technical reports have been published:
Engineered nanomaterials and human health: Part 1. Preparation, functionalization and characterization (IUPAC Technical Report) Pure and Applied Chemistry, 90(8), pp. 1283-1324, 2018;

ibid Part 2. Applications and nanotoxicology (IUPAC Technical Report), Pure and Applied Chemistry, 90(8), pp. 1325-1356, 2018;

Project completed

Last update 10 Aug 2018