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Sub-lethal Effects of Manufactured Nanoparticles on Fish

Natural Environment Research Council

grant number: NE/G0018182/1

Non-technical summary:

Manufactured nanomaterials are new materials that have many potential beneficial applications (e.g., new textiles, electronics, building materials, medical devices etc.). However, like any substance, they must be assessed for their safety and effects on the environment. Our recent laboratory work has shown that some nanomaterials are toxic to fish, and one particular area of concern is neurotoxicity, effects on the brain and on behaviour. This project aims to investigate these effects in detail by exposing rainbow trout to two different materials; carbon nanotubes and titanium dioxide nanoparticles. We will measure subtle changes in animal behaviour and correlate this with changes in the brain tissue (measured using psychological, histological and molecular techniques). The project also includes a risk assessment workshop, where we will discuss the results, and enable some decisions on how much of these new materials can be released into the environment and what the hazards are to wildlife and human health.

Scientific aims:

The overall aim is to determine the effects on nanomaterials on the brain and behaviour. The specific objectives are to:

  1. Make detailed measurements of trout behaviours using video-tracking technology and social interaction during sub-lethal NP exposures
  2. Determine the neurological basis of changes in behaviour (i.e., neurotoxicity) by global gene expression analyses, detailed histopathological examination of the nervous system and electrical recordings from brain slices or nerve cells in vitro
  3. Measure the energy inputs (e.g., food intake) and energy expenditure (e.g., costs of locomotion) to determine the overall effects on the bioenergetics
  4. Conduct a hazard and risk assessment workshop to share the data with regulators and other end users

Expertise on the project:

This project investigates the ecotoxicology of nanoparticles (NPs) with a particular focus on brain and behaviour. We bring together expertise in nano-ecotoxicology and chemistry (Professor Handy), with neuroscience (Professor Williamson, University of the West of Scotland), fish pathology and gene expression analysis (Dr Henry) and fish behaviour (Dr Sloman).

News and the latest results from the workers at the bench!

Dr David Boyle (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow): Behaviour and Physiology

Chris Ramsden (PhD Student): Reproduction and fish development

Kirsten Windeatt (Research Assistant): Effects on compound action potentials in shore crabs

Genan Al-Bairuty (PhD Student): Brain pathologies from nanoparticles