Dr. Andre Nel’s chief research interests are: nanomedicine and nanobiology, including nanomaterial properties that lead to biocompatible and biohazardous interactions in humans and the environment; the use of these properties to make predictions about nanomaterial safety in humans and the environment, including the safe design of mesoporous silica nanoparticles for drug delivery; and the role of air pollutants in asthma, with particular emphasis on the role of ultrafine particle-induced oxidative stress in the generation of airway inflammation and airway hyperreactivity. The theme of oxidative stress as a test paradigm for nanomaterial hazard and as a predictive paradigm for initiating high throughput toxicological assessment of nanomaterials links these research aspects together.
Through his work with the nanotoxicology program at UCLA, Nel and his colleagues train scientists to develop the scientific underpinnings needed to assess nanomaterial project safety during the synthesis stage, before the product enters the marketplace or gets disposed in the environment. This research and training program provides California with a pool of toxicology experts who can guide the development of safe products and develop tools for human and environmental exposure and risk assessment. The mission of the program is to develop an early warning system for nanomaterial hazards and safe design, particularly as it relates to interactions with biological systems and ecological life forms. A key strategy to accomplish this goal is to establish a library of nanoparticles that represent the major classes of commercial materials and to characterize these from the perspective of the physicochemical properties that lead to cellular, tissue and organism injury in aquatic and terrestrial life forms. The data is integrated into self-learning neural networks that will build an expert system for hazard ranking of a wide range of nanomaterials. The program also has important educational and outreach activities to inform society, government, policymakers and other scientists on how to safely implement nanomaterials in the environment.
Nel is also involved in the interdisciplinary Nanomacchine Center, whose goal is to use nanovalve-operated mesoporous nanoparticles for controlled cancer drug delivery. Nel’s contribution to this work involves assisting in the biological testing of the different nanoparticle design modules in cancer cells and animals with particular emphasis on the particle properties that may them biocompatible and enhance their ability to target cancer cells.
Selected Cancer-Related Publications:
Meng H, Xue M, Xia T, Ji Z, Tarn DY, Zink JI, Nel AE. Use of size and a copolymer design feature to improve the biodistribution and the enhanced permeability and retention effect of doxorubicin-loaded mesoporous silica nanoparticles in a murine xenograft tumor model. ACS Nano. 2011 May 24;5(5):4131-44. Epub 2011 Apr 27.
Meng H, Xue M, Xia T, Zhao YL, Tamanoi F, Stoddart JF, Zink JI, Nel AE. Autonomous in vitro anticancer drug release from mesoporous silica nanoparticles by pH-sensitive nanovalves. J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Sep 15;132(36):12690-7.
Meng H, Liong M, Xia T, Li Z, Ji Z, Zink JI, Nel AE. Engineered design of mesoporous silica nanoparticles to deliver doxorubicin and P-glycoprotein siRNA to overcome drug resistance in a cancer cell line. ACS Nano. 2010 Aug 24;4(8):4539-50.
Liong M, Lu J, Kovochich M, Xia T, Ruehm SG, Nel AE, Tamanoi F, Zink JI. Multifunctional Inorganic Nanoparticles for Imaging, Targeting, and Drug Delivery. ACS Nano 2008 2:889-896.
Nel AE, Xia T, Mädler L, Li N. Toxic potential of materials at the nanolevel. Science. 2006; 311(5761): 622-7.