PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Carbon nanoparticles are widely used in medicine, electronics, optics, materials science and architecture, but their health and environmental impact is not fully understood.
In a series of experiments, researchers at Brown University sought to determine how carbon nanoparticles would affect fruit flies — from the very young to adults.
The scientists found that larval Drosophila melanogaster showed no physical or reproductive effects from consuming carbon nanoparticles in their food. Yet adult Drosophila experienced a different fate. Tests showed adults immersed in tiny pits containing two varieties of carbon nanoparticles died within hours. Analyses of the dead flies revealed the carbon nanoparticles stuck to their bodies, covered their breathing holes, and coated their compound eyes.
The scientists immersed adult Drosophila in a control test tube and test tubes containing four different types of carbon nanoparticles corresponding with their commercial uses — carbon black (a powder much like printer toner), C60 (spherical molecules known as carbon buckyballs, named for Buckminster Fuller's geodesic designs), single-walled carbon nanotubes, and multiwalled carbon nanotubes. Flies in the test tubes with no carbon nanoparticles, C60 and the multiwalled nanotubes climbed up the tubes with few or no difficulties. But the batches of flies immersed in the carbon black and single-walled nanotubes could not escape their surroundings and died within six to 10 hours, the Brown scientists report.
The researchers have several related experiments in the works. They plan to test fruit flies' response to nanosilver and other nanomaterials with different chemistries, and they will investigate why the adult Drosophila died from varieties of the carbon nanoparticles. ###
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation through a Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Teams (NIRT) grant, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Superfund Research Program Grant, and the Research Seed Fund Program of Brown's Office of Vice President for Research. Dawn Abt, a research assistant in Rand's lab, contributed to the paper.
Contact: Richard Lewis Richard_Lewis@Brown.edu 401-863-3766 Brown University