NANOSOLUTIONS was present at the Forum for Young Scientists held in Syracuse, Italy 8-9 October 2014. The presentations by Carina Muoth (EMPA) and Manuel Correia (DTU), both working in the NANOSOLUTIONS project, were awarded for the two best science communications of the Forum. Congratulations Carina and Manuel!

Carina Muoth (EMPA) won the first prize with her presentation on “Advanced in vitro placental tissue model to study nanoparticle effects and uptake mechanisms”. A better understanding of the interaction between nanoparticles (NP) and the human placental barrier is indispensable for the safe design of NPs and their potential use in novel nanomedical therapies. To reduce the significant knowledge gap in this field of research EMPA is developing a novel 3D-placenta model for a comprehensive and efficient NP screening. This study showed that it is possible to obtain stable co-culture microtissues resembling a simplified placental barrier. This model is expected to allow studying NP effects and uptake mechanisms and in this way, it complements the in vivo and ex vivo experiments that are used to study NP translocation. This research will contribute to the NANOSOUTIONS goal to identify those NP characteristics that are critical for barrier crossing and tissue effects.

Manuel Correia (DTU) won the second prize with his presentation on “Development of dispersion procedures for surface-functionalized Copper Oxide (CuO) nanoparticles to use in large-scale toxicity studies”. This work highlights the importance of and key challenges in developing standardized and meaningful dispersion protocols. Since many of the engineered nanomaterials (ENM) are provided as powders composed of nanoparticle agglomerates, it is of outmost importance to develop meaningful and reproducible dispersion protocols which allow to obtain similar ENM dispersion for use in a wide range of toxicological studies. This study regards the development of a dispersion procedure for Copper Oxide (CuO ENM) in NANOSOLUTIONS and it aims to address the issues in developing meaningful and standardized dispersion procedures. Two dispersion protocols, probe sonication and ball milling were tested aiming both at a high degree of ENM de-agglomeration and avoiding the introduction of contaminations from the dispersion procedure. It is important that the dispersion procedure does not only allow to obtain a low ENM size but also that it does not introduce potential contaminations and/or lead to the dissolution of ENM material. Probe sonication was used as a dispersion procedure for CuO ENM in NANOSOLUTIONS. One of the advantages of probe sonication is that it is possible to intercalibrate the power output of probe sonicators in different labs by using a calorimetry method. By using the same power output, it is thus possible to obtain similar dispersions and ENM sizes in different labs, which enables the comparison of the toxicological results provided by the different partners.

The highlights of the Forum included also the keynote speeches from the established senior scientists. Dr Gerhard Kasper gave a keynote on “Functionality based exposure assessment to airborne nanoparticles” and Dr Bengt Fadeel on “Nanotoxicology: from biological systems to systems biology”. The Forum, organized together with the NanoSafety Cluster and MODENA COST Action, provided a perfect platform for young scientists to share the results of their work, engage in dialogue with senior scientists and gain experience in science communication. Around 100 people attended the event.