Author Archives: Georgios Pyrgiotakis

Dilpreet Singh won the New Investigator Award at the National Nanotechnology Initiative international QEEN conference

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From left: Dr. Michael A. Meador, Director, National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), Dilpreet Singh, Award winner, Dr. Treye Thomas, Leader, Chemical Hazards Program, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Dilpreet Singh, a second year doctoral student in Prof. Philip Demokritou’s Lab for Environmental Health Nanoscience at the Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has won the New Investigator Award at the InternationalQEEN (Quantifying Exposure to Engineered Nanomaterials from Manufactured Products) conference sponsored by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in collaboration with the NNI (National Nanotechnology Initiative) at Washington D.C. from July 7-8, 2015.

Dilpreet’s poster presentation entitled “Nano-waste: Environmental health and safety (EHS) implications during thermal degradation/incineration of nano-enabled products at their end-of-life” was the winner in the New Investigators Competition. The two-day conference was attended by 150 experts from academia, federal representatives, and industries and focused primarily on understanding the exposure science related to engineered nanomaterials. Dilpreet’s research is part of an NSF funded research project which focuses on the environmental health and safety implications of Nano-enabled products at their end of life during thermal decomposition and incineration.

Dilpreet Singh explains the concept of his research at the National Nanotechnology Initiative international QEEN conference.

Dilpreet Singh explains the concept of his research to Dr. Chuck Geraci.

“By understanding the science behind potential release and exposure of engineered nanomaterials across the lifecycle of a nano-enabled product, one can move forward in the direction of sustainable nanotechnology development by coming up with novel product designs that would minimize potential exposure, and hence risk,” said Singh in an interview with Dr. Chuck Geraci, Associate Director for Nanotechnology at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The Effects of Inhaled Nanoscale Particles in the Central Nervous System 


Speaker: Dr
. Alison Elder,

Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester

Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Nanotoxicology

Date: May 21, 2015

Time: 12:30-1:30 pm

Place: 665 Huntington Ave,

Bldg. 1, Room 1302,

Boston, MA, 02115


The consistent findings that particulate matter exposure is causally associated with the adverse cardiopulmonary health effects of ambient air pollution can be explained by the generation of inflammatory mediators by lung tissue that then travel to other organ systems, the activation of autonomic nervous system responses, and the delivery of respiratory tract-deposited material to other tissues via solid particle (translocation) or solute transport. Inhaled nanoscale particles (<100 nm in diameter, also ultrafine particles) deposit with high efficiency in all regions of the respiratory tract. Studies with very poorly-soluble nanoscale particles demonstrate translocation to distal tissues (e.g., liver, brain); with respect to the brain, we showed that some of this accumulation could be explained by solid particle transport via the olfactory nerve. Thus, we are now investigating whether there are adverse consequences of such accumulation, such as local inflammation or the induction or exacerbation of neurodegenerative processes. Using poorly-soluble nanoscale Mn oxide particles, it was found that markers of oxidative stress and inflammatory cell activation were elevated in the same regions of the brain where Mn accumulated following whole-body inhalation exposure in rats. Using a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), it was also demonstrated that exposure led to persistent microglial and astrocyte activation, elevations in amyloid b-42 protein, and decreases in synaptophysin staining. Similar studies were done using concentrated ambient ultrafine particles. These studies showed that inflammatory gene expression was elevated in brain in response to inhaled ambient ultrafine particles and that such elevation was more pronounced in the transgenic AD mice as compared to non-transgenic mice. Taken collectively, the findings from these studies suggest that inhaled particles can be transported to the central nervous system and that they can elicit tissue responses that could contribute to the progression of pathology in those regions where accumulation occurs.

Biographical Sketch: Alison Elder, Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester, is an inhalation toxicologist with research interests that include the pulmonary, cardiovascular, and central nervous system inflammatory and oxidative stress-related effects of engineered nanomaterials and ambient air particulate matter and the physicochemical properties of the particles that are linked to response outcomes. Particle biokinetics and the impacts of age and other underlying vulnerabilities on response are also of interest. Dr. Elder has authored numerous research papers in the field, as well as review articles and book chapters. She is an editorial board member for five journals and is deputy Editor-in-Chief of Nanotoxicology. She also serves on the Threshold Limit Value-Chemical Substances committee of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

Particulate Air Pollution Research meets Nanomaterial Toxicology: Evidence for beyond the lung


140402 #Dia  Flemming Cassee ambasadeur innovatie RIVM Foto Tjitske SluisSpeaker: Flemming R. Cassee, PhD

Senior Inhalation Toxicologist,

National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Netherlands

Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands

Date: March 20, 2015

Time: 9:30-10:30pm

Place: 665 Huntington Ave,

Bldg. 1, Room 1302,

Boston, MA 02115


Abstract: Ambient particulate matter (PM) has been extensively studied in the past two decades because of the association of the level of PM and several markers for morbidity as well as premature death in the general population. Much has been done to clean up the air that we breathe and in most places standards for PM are met. There are still hot spots, such as busy traffic locations for which abatement measure need to be taken to further reduce the concentrations. Since the effects are still noted below current air quality standards, and the cost of reducing PM further are getting higher and higher, targeted research is needed to identify the most harmful constituents and the related sources of emissions. Of special interest are the ultrafine or nano-scale particles as they seem to contribute to the adverse health effects and are not well captured by current standards. The effects of nanoparticles may very well be observed in organs other than those that correspond to the port of entry – for example, the central nervous system. In light of different distribution patterns on inhalation and the likelihood that nanoparticles can escape natural defence mechanisms, such as phagocytosis, it is likely that this size fraction will also be linked to biological pathways and responses that differ from larger sized particles. Whether or not nanoparticles translocate is dependent on several factors including size and solubility. Small particles (<10nm) translocate with greater efficiency than large particles (<100nm). Soluble particles can directly diffuse across the lung membrane. While small soluble particles have been shown to translocate into the circulatory system, carbon core nanoparticles do not diffuse across the lung membranes to the same extent, although soluble coatings from them can. Examples for translocation to and adverse effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous system after inhalation exposure to nanoparticles will be presented.

Biographical Sketch: Flemming R. Cassee, PhD, is senior inhalation toxicologist at RIVM and is involved in the research on the adverse health effects of air pollution. He has written a number of scientific reports and articles in international journals and has presented several papers at international conferences. In addition, he serves in a number of international advisory committees. He is senior-scientific advisor on Inhalation Toxicology and leader of several projects on Ambient Particulate Matter and Health. Dr. Cassee is member of WHO and EU committees and invited reviewer of the US EPA and Health Effects Institute. He has a position as professor in inhalation toxicology at the Institute of Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS) at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. He has been active in toxicology for more than 20 years with a prime interest in the adverse health effects of air pollutants and inhaled nanomaterials.

Nanotechnology to the Rescue: Using Engineered Water Nanostructures (EWNS) to inactivate Foodborne Microorganisms

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The burden of foodborne diseases worldwide is huge, with serious economic and public health consequences. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Economic Research Service reported in 2014 that foodborne illnesses are costing the economy more than $15.6 billion and about 53,245 Americans visit the hospital annually due to foodborne illnesses. The food industry is in search of effective intervention methods that can be applied form “farm to fork” to ensure the safety of the food chain and be consumer and environment friendly at the same time.

Researchers at the Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology of the Harvard T. Chan School of Public Health are currently exploring the effectiveness of a nanotechnology based, chemical free, intervention method for the inactivation of foodborne and spoilage microorganisms on fresh produce and on food production surfaces. This method utilizes Engineered Water Nanostructures (EWNS) generated by electrospraying of water. EWNS possess unique properties; they are 25 nm in diameter, remain airborne in indoor conditions for hours, contain Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), have very strong surface charge (on average 10e/structure) and have the ability to interact and inactivate pathogens by destroying their membrane.

In a study funded by the USDA and just published this week in the premier Environmental Science and Technology journal, the efficacy of these tiny water nanodroplets, in inactivating representative foodborne pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica and Listeria innocua, on stainless steel surfaces and on tomatoes, was assessed showing significant log reductions in inactivation of select food pathogens. These promising results could open up the gateway for further exploration into the dynamics of this method in the battle against foodborne disease. More importantly this novel, chemical-free, cost effective and environmentally friendly intervention method holds great potential for development and application in the food industry, as a ‘green’ alternative to existing inactivation methods.

Dr. Philip Demokritou, Associate professor at Department of Environmental Health and lead author of the study mentioned, “Nanotechnology can bring on the table new useful intervention approaches that can be used in the battle against food borne diseases. Using water in its engineered nanoscale form can be a ‘game changer’, cost effective approach that can be easily deployed at various intervention points across the ‘farm to fork’ line”.

Drs. Georgios Pyrgiotakis and Pallavi Vedantam, post-doctoral research fellows in the Department of Environmental Health who are currently further exploring the prospects of this novel high throughput system believe that this technology could not only significantly decrease the microbial load on the fresh produce but also extend shelf life of produce and reduce the number of cases of foodborne illnesses on consumption. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has estimated 48 million such cases each year in the United States alone, which include 3,000 deaths. Hence, this method could potentially landscape the preventable public health challenge of foodborne infections and craft best ways forward. Prof. Mitchell and his team at SEAS also collaborated in this study.

EST publication can be accessed here. For more information on nano related research at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health please visit our website at


Printer Emitted Particles: Are they safe?

Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) incorporated into toner formulations of toner used in every day laser printers. During the print jobs it is likely that the particles can be released in the air.

Recently, our group developed a lab based Printer Exposure Generation System that allows the generation and sampling of airborne PEPs for subsequent physicochemical, morphological and toxicological analyses. This platform was used to evaluate PM emission profiles from 11 laser printers currently on the market. It was shown that the particle number concentration of PEPs varied across different printer models/manufacturers and reached as high as 1.3 million particles/cm3 and with modal diameters <200 nm. The detailed assessment of both toners and PEPs confirmed not only the presence of nanoscale materials in the airborne state but also their complex chemistries, which include elemental and organic carbon and inorganic compounds such as metals and metal oxides. It has been now confirmed that toners are classified as nano-enabled products. Additionally, we have performed in-depth toxicological analysis evaluating the effects of exposure to PEPs using physiologically relevant cell lines in both mono- and co-culture experimental systems. We have shown that PEPs caused significant cytotoxicity, membrane integrity damage, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, pro-inflammatory cytokine release, angiogenesis, actin remodeling, gap cell junctions and epigenetic changes in cells at doses comparable to those from real world exposure scenarios representative of inhalation exposures in the range of 1-200 hours. We may conclude that laser printer-emitted engineered nanoparticles can be deleterious to lung cells and may cause persistent genetic modifications that could translate to pulmonary disorders.


  1. Pirela SV, Pyrgiotakis G, Bello D, Thomas T, Castranova V, Demokritou P. 2014a. Development and characterization of an exposure platform suitable for physico-chemical, morphological and toxicological characterization of printer-emitted particles (peps). Inhal Toxicol 26:400-408.
  2. Pirela SV, Sotiriou GA, Bello D, Shafer M, Bunker KL, Castranova V, et al. 2014b. Consumer exposures to laser printer-emitted engineered nanoparticles: A case study of life-cycle implications from nano-enabled products. Nanotoxicology:1-9.
  3. Pirela SV, Miousse IR, Lu X, Castranova V, Thomas T, Qian Y, et al. 2015. Laser printer-emitted engineered nanoparticles lead to cytotoxicity, inflammation and changes in dna methylation in human cells. Environmental health perspectives.
  4. Sisler JD, Pirela SV, Friend S, Farcas M, Schwegler-Berry D, Shvedova A, et al. 2014. Small airway epithelial cells exposure to printer-emitted engineered nanoparticles induces cellular effects on human microvascular endothelial cells in an alveolar-capillary co-culture model. Nanotoxicology:1-11.

News Release: A new bug killer


The Center Director Dr. Phil Demokritou and the Research Fellow Georgios Pyrgiotakis are featured in the prestigious magazine “The Economist” (issue July 7) that is focus on the upcoming “Big things in Nanotechnology”. They discuss the applications of their research on the Engineered Water Nanostructures  (EWNS) in aspects of daily life. This feature is one more on the long list of recognition the research on the topic that the center has earned. You can read the entire story of on the online version of The Economist here.

The research has been featured in numerous print and on line publications:

  • Our paper has been Featured by RSC’s journal Chemistry World (link)
  • It was also featured in the German NPR radio (link)
  • It was featured on the cover of the Enviromental Science: Nano

Nano State

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The NanoCenter researchers , Phil Demokritou, Joseph Brain and Georgios Pyrgiotakis were featured in a four page special story at the Harvard School of Public Health magazine. They discussed the impact of nano in the society and the importance of the center research. Further more they talked about the Engineered Water Nanostructures a novel, chemical free method developed in the Center that is promising for the air inactivation of pathogenes.

You can read the whole story here.