Using Flathead Minnow Microarrays to Test Toxicity of Nanoparticles

EPA Contract Number: EPD08026
Title: Using Flathead Minnow Microarrays to Test Toxicity of Nanoparticles
Investigators: Carter, Barbara J.
Small Business: EcoArray Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2008 through August 31, 2008
Project Amount: $69,500
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Nanotechnology


The use of nanoparticles has increased in manufacturing, industry, and commercial products over the past two decades. As a result, governmental agencies, industry, and academia worldwide have formed advisory groups to evaluate exposure and toxicity issues surrounding the potential adverse effects of nanomaterials on human health. However, assessing the potential effects of nanoparticles on human health is not an easy task, as the properties of nanoparticles depend not only on the size of the particle, but also on the structure, microstructure, and surface properties (coating) (Moore 2006, Yin, et al. 2005, Burleson, et al. 2004).

Invariably, industrial products and wastes, including some aerosols, tend to end up in waterways despite safeguards; it is inevitable that nanoscale products and by-products will also enter aquatic environments as nanotechnology industries scale up production (Moore 2006, Borm, et al. 2006). Thus, the uptake of nanoparticles into the aquatic biota is a major concern. Potential routes include direct ingestion or entry across epithelial boundaries such as gills, olfactory organs, or body walls; or through phagocytosis or endocytosis (Moore 2006). These processes are integral to key physiological functions such as cellular immunity and intracellular digestion.

Only recently have concerns regarding the release of nanomaterials into the environment and their potential effects on fish and wildlife begun to be addressed through toxicological testing. Concerns about environmental contaminants that adversely affect health, development, and reproduction of exposed wildlife have lead to the development of specific in vitro and in vivo assays to test for these effects. Gene microarrays integrate in vivo exposures with mechanistic outcomes. Using this technology, thousands of genes can be tested at one time with mRNAs isolated from tissues of exposed animals. These tools show potential for providing more precise, quantifiable data than existing assays, and are now affordable.

The overall goals of this Phase I grant are to employ microarrays to identify genes that fluctuate in fathead minnows after acute exposure to nanotubes. The data will be analyzed to determine what, if any, pathways are affected in the fathead minnow. This information should enable EcoArray to identify “genetic fingerprints” and to use the database as a tool for identifying contaminants in unknown situations (class prediction), which may lead to an interpretation of human health issues. The research undertaken in the Phase I study of nanotubes should help validate the expediency and affordability of the high density fathead minnow microarrays for compound screening and use in environmental toxicology.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, nanoparticles, manufacturing products, industrial products, commercial products, nanomaterials, nanotechnology, aquatic environment, exposure, toxicity, human health, nanotubes, fathead minnow, microstructure, surface properties, industrial waste, aerosols, nanoscale products, by-products, nanotechnology industries, aquatic biota, ingestion, epithelial boundaries, phagocytosis, endocytosis, cellular immunity, intracellular digestion, toxicological testing, environmental contaminants, reproduction, gene microarray, in vitro assay, in vivo assay, in vivo exposure, mechanistic outcome, acute exposure, genetic fingerprints, compound screening, environmental toxicology,, Health, Scientific Discipline, Toxicology, Genetics, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, altered gene expression, nanochemistry, genetic analysis, nanotechnology, microarray studies

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report