Nanoparticles may be all around you, hiding the white marks from your sunscreen, or absorbing the stench of your socks. Small enough to pass through surgical mask fabric, their minuscule diameter – under a ten-thousandth of a millimetre – means they have a much larger surface area for reactions, so can be applied in much smaller amounts than larger particles. As this highly magnified picture shows, they can be taken up by cells through their plasma membrane, making them useful for delivering drugs, or marking disease molecules. Just like any new compound, they must undergo toxicology testing to see whether they have any harmful effects. However, a recent study has shown that nanotoxicology research needs to have a standardised way of carrying out experiments and analysing results so that we can compare studies and draw more reliable conclusions. Hopefully this will lead to more effective vaccines, faster diagnoses, and fewer sweaty socks.
Written by Esther Redhouse White
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.