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Physico-chemical determinants of toxicity: A rational approach towards safer nanostructured materials (S²NANO)

Research project SD/HE/02A (Research action SD)

Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  LISON Dominique - Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2006-31/1/2009
  • Dr.  HOET Peter - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2006-31/1/2009
  • Prof.  MARTENS Johan - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2006-31/1/2009
  • Prof. dr.  KIRSCHHOCK Christine - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2006-31/1/2009
  • Prof. dr.  VOLDERS Micheline - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2006-31/1/2009

Description :


Nanomaterials are receiving increasing attention for their promise as engineering and biomedical revolutions of the 21st century. The rapid proliferation of many different engineered nanomaterials can, however, represent a hazard to human health, in occupational settings and possibly also for the consumer and the population at large. There is therefore a strong need to develop scientific knowledge that can be used by industrials to develop safer products and by regulators to control exposures and limit risks. These efforts will allow a sustainable development of this growing field of economical activity.

Project description


To investigate experimentally the physico-chemical determinants of nanomaterials toxicity in order to provide guidelines for the design, production and control of safer and sustainable industrial products.


A single model material, i.e. silicon-based nanoparticles, that can be finely designed and characterised by one of the partners (KULeuven-COK) to tune one selected physico-chemical characteristic at the time will be used. The project will focus on the inhalation toxicity of the particles, as the main likely and disquieting portal-of-entry for nanomaterials. The experimental strategy will apply a first set of in vitro screening tests exploring 3 critical biological endpoints in the expression of inhalation toxicity and for which each partner has strong expertise: production of inflammatory mediators by macrophages (UCL-TOXI), genotoxicity in epithelial, endothelial and mesothelial cells (VUB-CEGE), and platelet aggregation and coagulation (KULeuven-LUNG).

Expected results and/or products

Bridging and translating research data into information and/or guidelines useful for stakeholders will be achieved through close contacts with the follow-up committee, participation to national and international meetings and publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.



TOXI has developed experimental models, both in vitro and in vivo, to elucidate determinants and mediators involved in the toxic response of the lung. Their expertise is internationally-recognised in the study of cytokine networks and proteases in lung inflammation and fibrosis.

CEGE investigates the mechanisms of action of mutagens/carcinogens (e.g. indirect mechanisms of genotoxicity by interference with spindle proteins, DNA repair enzymes and cellular trafficking). Their expertise in biomarkers of genotoxic effects is well recognized for in vitro screening and biomonitoring studies.

LUNG uses in vivo and in vitro models (using isolated pulmonary epithelial cells from animals and humans) to investigate the mechanisms of pulmonary toxicity. A special emphasis is put on the effects of ultra-fine particles on systemic inflammation and thrombosis/haemostasis.

The emphasis of the nanotechnology research of COK is at the molecular level, and especially on the engineering of an active catalytic site, and on the elaboration of suitable conditions and processes for operation of the newly developed catalyst.

Contact Information


Dominique Lison
Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
Unité de toxicologie industrielle et de médecine du travail (TOXI)
Avenue E. Mounier, 53.02
B-1200 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0)2 764.53.30
Fax: +32 (0)2 764.53.38


Micheline Volders
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
Laboratorium voor Cell Genetica (CEGE)
Pleinlaan 2
B-1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0)2 629.34.23
Fax:+32 (0)2 629.27.59

Peter Hoet
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven)
Laboratorium voor Longtoxicologie
Campus GHB, Herestraat 49
B-3000 Leuven
Tel: +32 (0)16 33.01.97
Fax : +32 (0)16 34.71.24

Johan Martens and Christine Kirschhock
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven)
Centrum voor Oppervlaktechemie & Katalyse
Kasteelpark Arenberg 23 - bus 2461
B-3001 Heverlee
Tel: +32 (0)16 32.16.10
Fax: +32 (0)16 32.19.98

Follow-up Committee

Y. Navez (SPF santé Publique)
L. Wouters (FPS ELSD)
B. Fubini (University of Torino)
B. Swennen et S. Verbeckmoes (Umicore)
P. Blomme (Bekaert)
D. Marzin (Institut Pasteur, Lille)
P. Martin (CEC)
B. Schmit, P. Prim et J. Muller (Solvay)

Documentation :

Physico-chemical determinants of toxicity : a rational approach towards safer nanostructured materials : final report  Lison, Dominique - Kirsch-Volders, Micheline - Hoet, Peter ... et al  Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2011 (SP2318)
[To download]  [To order

Physico-chemical determinants of toxicity: A rational approach towards safer nanostructured materials : final report (phase I)    Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2009 (SP2041)
[To download

Déterminants physico-chimiques de la toxicité: Une approche rationnelle pour des nanomateriaux plus surs : résumé (phase 1)    Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2009 (SP2115)
[To download

Fysico-chemische determinanten van toxiciteit: rationele benadering voor veiliger nanomaterialen : samenvatting (fase 1)    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2009 (SP2116)
[To download

Physico-chemical determinants of toxicity: A rational approach towards safer nanostructured materials : summary (phase 1)    Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2009 (SP2117)
[To download

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