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Current Projects


The project “3R-systems biology strategy for human neurotoxicity hazard risk and safety assessment (N3RvousSystem)” has been awarded within the Dutch-German bilateral project call InnoSysTox: (Innovative systems toxicology for alternatives to animal testing), and is funded on the German part by the BMBF. The aim of this research project is the development of a strategy to detect adverse effects on the brain resulting from chemical exposure on the basis of a systems biology-based 3R-testing approach. A major goal of the project involves the evaluation of the applicability of such a novel approach towards hazard and risk assessment of engineered nanomaterials. The project is carried out in cooperation with three partners in the Netherlands, i.e. Utrecht University (coordination), the RIVM in Bilthoven and PamGene in ‘s-Hertogenbosch as well as two further German partners, i.e. the IUTA in Duisburg and Tascon GmbH in Münster.

BMBF-funded joint research project NanoCOLT “Long-term effect of modified Carbon Black nanoparticles on healthy and damaged lungs” (since 1 October 2014).

Based on the results yielded in the CarbonBlack project, the joint research project NanoCOLT aims to determine the human toxicity potential of Carbon Black nanoparticles (CBNPs) after prolonged exposure, i.e. repeated exposure to CBNPs over a period of several months in this case. The main focus is on the connection between surface modifications of synthetic CBNPs and toxic / biological effectiveness. Since chronic pulmonary disorders such as allergic asthma or chronic bronchitis are increasing in the population, it can be assumed that a significant proportion of potentially exposed people are already suffering from a pulmonary disorder. It can be further assumed that diseased lungs are more vulnerable to noxious substances than are healthy lungs, and that they are likely to trigger antitoxic cellular responses to nanoparticles after a shorter period of exposure. Therefore, research in the NanoCOLT project will also look into the human toxicity potential of CBNPs for damaged lungs.

The Leibniz doctoral project “Identification of cellular responses relevant for the safety assessment of modern nanomaterials”.

Modern nanomaterials are able to interact with body cells via specific mechanisms, which, besides intended cell reactions, may also induce adverse effects. Nanotoxicology establishes and provides experimental systems for the identification and estimation of risks to human health which are induced by these materials. In the current Leibniz doctoral project based on the complementary expertise of the participating groups (Dr A. Kraegeloh, INM, and Dr K. Unfried, IUF), the mechanistic scaffold for the development of such methods will be generated.

Priority program at the University of Lübeck “Biomedical engineering: Imaging disease processes”.

The project co-financed by the University of Lübeck and FZ Borstel sets out to design contrast agents for an innovative imaging technique known as Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) and test their ability to detect tumour cells. Developed in Hamburg by the Philips Company, this very fast, radiation-free high-resolution imaging technique is particularly useful for medical check-ups and therapeutic measures requiring frequent scans. Since this technique relies on contrast agents composed of magnetisable nanoparticles, it is essential to investigate the behaviour of such particles in biological environments. The principal variants analysed in the process are binding selectivity, stability and modifiability. If robust, non-toxic particles for MPI can be manufactured successfully, the imaging technique will make a major step forward towards its clinical application.

SETNanoMetro (contribution of Dr. R. Schins)

According to the European Commission [EC, COM (2012) 572, 03/10/2012], important challenges at a European level are related to the establishment of validated methods and instrumentation for the detection, characterisation and analysis of nanoparticles (NPs). Within the scope of the SETNanoMetro project, the use of various measurement techniques for the determination of NP properties will allow the development of well-defined and controlled protocols for the production of TiO2 NPs, surpassing the currently used “trial and error” approach.

Transnational Leibniz research group AIRBAG

The bilateral research agreement with the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM, The Netherlands) encompasses studies on possible neurotoxic and neurodegenerative effects of air pollution and nanoparticles. The groups of Prof Flemming Cassee (RIVM) and Dr Roel Schins (IUF) aim to identify physico-chemical characteristics of ultrafine particulate air pollution and manufactured nanoparticles that contribute to the development or progression of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease.

Integrated research project (IRP) “Particle Research” at IUF

IUF draws on longstanding expertise in particle toxicology provided by the work of several in-house groups. Based on this core, an integrated research program has been established, which integrates additional expertise in the fields of cell biology, epidemiology, immunology, dermatology and ageing research to investigate the effects of particles on human health. This cluster of complementary fields and methods allows the effects of engineered nanoparticles to be investigated in a mechanistic way at different experimental levels. Besides in vitro and cell culture systems, wild type and transgenic in vivo systems are used, including modern models like C. elegans. Additionally, human controlled exposure and intervention studies are performed to corroborate these findings. On the other hand, findings from observational epidemiological studies can be further elucidated using the mechanistic approach.