Nanotechnology Innovations in Health and Safety Applications

Published on August 6, 2009 at 7:59 PM

The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering ("CNSE") of the University at Albany announced today that it has selected an accomplished physician to head a next-generation NanoHealth initiative that will focus on education, research, and deployment of nanotechnology enabled improvements in occupational, public, and environmental health and safety.

As CNSE Assistant Vice President for NanoHealth Initiatives and Assistant Professor of Nanobioscience, Dr. Sara Brenner will spearhead leading-edge research aimed at developing novel nanotechnology applications in nanomedicine, including nanotoxicology and environmental and public health. She will also lead health and safety research initiatives related to nanoparticle and nanomaterial exposures in the workplace, consumer marketplace, and the environment.

The first physician to join the faculty of the UAlbany NanoCollege, Dr. Brenner is providing medical expertise for CNSE's nanomedicine initiatives, including projects in cancer research and regenerative medicine, such as tissue engineering and artificial organs; designing a first-of-its-kind nanotoxicology program; and exploring the creation of a groundbreaking clinical scientist training program in nanomedicine.

Her research will also seek to establish a systematic understanding of the health and safety implications and effects associated with the unique characteristics of nanoparticles, with a focus on assessing and mitigating risk, developing reduction strategies for occupational exposures, improving the monitoring of nanoparticles that may impact public and environmental health, and recommending industrial practice standards for product safety.

George Philip, President of the University at Albany, said, "Already recognized as the world leader in pioneering nanotechnology education and game-changing nanoscale science and engineering research, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is once again breaking important new ground with the addition of Dr. Brenner to CNSE's world-class faculty. Her demonstrated expertise, in combination with CNSE's unparalleled excellence, will enable exciting new advances in 21st century health care and environmental safety, while serving to bolster the University's global recognition as one of the world's preeminent research universities."

Alain E. Kaloyeros, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of CNSE, said, "I am delighted to welcome Dr. Brenner to the UAlbany NanoCollege, where she will lead the creation of a first-of-its-kind NanoHealth initiative that is as pioneering as it is important. Known for her keen intellect, contagious energy, comprehensive knowledge, and responsible ethics, Sara brings a distinctive perspective to the exciting field of nanobioscience that is seamlessly suited to the CNSE pioneering interdisciplinary paradigm, particularly for advancing preventive and therapeutic innovations in health care."

Professor Brenner said, "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join the world-class faculty at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and particularly to have the chance to design and implement a groundbreaking and vital NanoHealth program. In applying nanotechnology to the critical areas of disease prevention, early detection, monitoring and treatment, we plan to effectively translate nanoscale innovations into practical solutions that will drastically improve 21st century health care and public safety. I look forward to the establishment of an integrated health sciences partnership with top flight medical institutions and leading health and safety public agencies in the Capital Region and across New York State."

Professor Brenner received her B.S. in genetics from Iowa State University, her M.D. from the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine, and her M.P.H. from the University at Albany's School of Public Health. Among numerous awards and honors, she has received the American College of Preventive Medicine's Don Gemson Resident Award; the A. Zamin Rizavi, M.D. Internal Medicine Award; the University of Iowa Hancher-Finkbine Medallion; the American Medical Association's Foundation Leadership Award; and the American College of Preventive Medicine's Future Leaders in Preventive Medicine Award.

The American Society for Nanomedicine (ASNM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) define nanomedicine as the application of nanoscale scientific concepts and engineering principles to medical diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment "at the level of single molecules or molecular assemblies that provide structure, control, signaling, homeostasis and motility in cells." As such, nanomedicine, "an offshoot of nanotechnology," involves "highly specific medical interventions at the molecular scale for curing disease or repairing damaged tissues, such as bone, muscle, or nerve."

Nanomedicine holds the promise for truly innovative, leading edge, preventive treatments and effective cures. Potential applications, as cited by the NIH, include nanoscale tools that enable doctors to "search out and destroy the very first cancer cells that would otherwise have caused a tumor to develop in the body;" molecularly precise procedures that can remove a broken part of a cell and replace it with a miniature biological machine; and pumps the size of molecules that could be implanted to deliver life-saving medicines precisely when and where they are needed. The NIH also predicts that nanomedicine will enable the development of "new tools that will work at the nanoscale and allow scientists to build synthetic biological devices, such as tiny sensors to scan for the presence of infectious agents or metabolic imbalances that could spell trouble for the body, and miniature devices to destroy the infectious agents or fix damaged cellular parts."

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