McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Donna Stolz, PhD (pictured), Associate Director, Center for Biologic Imaging, and Associate Professor, Cell Biology and Physiology, is a research team member of a Pitt-based international study that has identified a human enzyme that can biodegrade carbon nanotubes. As reported, the study showed that carbon nanotubes – when degraded with human enzyme myeloperoxidase (hMPO) – did not produce the lung inflammation that has been associated with these nanotubes.
The results could open the door to the use of carbon nanotubes as a safe drug-delivery tool and also could lead to the development of a natural treatment for people exposed to nanotubes, either in the environment or the workplace, the team reported. Furthermore, neutrophils, the white blood cells that contain and emit hMPO to kill invading microorganisms, can be directed to attack carbon nanotubes specifically.
Carbon nanotubes are used to reinforce plastics, ceramics, or concrete. They are excellent heat or electricity conductors and are also sensitive to chemical sensors. In order to achieve beneficial medical application of these nanotubes, they must break down in the body; however, carbon nanotubes are very durable. In addition, the surface of a nanotube contains thousands of atoms that interact with the body in unknown ways. This can create complications, such as severe lung inflammation when nanotubes are inhaled. The enzyme hMPO addresses both of these issues.
“The ability of hMPO to biodegrade carbon nanotubes reveals that this breakdown is part of a natural inflammatory response,” lead researcher Valerian Kagan, vice chair in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the Graduate School of Public Health, explained. “The next step is to develop methods for stimulating that inflammatory response and reproducing the biodegradation process inside a living organism.”
In addition to Drs. Kagen and Stolz, other University of Pittsburgh faculty members on this team are Yulia Tyurina (environmental and occupational health), Alexander Star (chemistry) and Judith Klein-Seethharaman (structural biology.) Research is also being conducted at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Trinity College in Ireland, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and West Virginia University.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
University of Pittsburgh News Release (04/07/10)
Science Daily (04/08/10)
Science Centric (04/08/10)
Pitt Chronicle (04/19/10)
Bio: Dr. Donna Stolz
Abstract (Nature Nanotechnology; (04/04/10))