The new toxicology of sophisticated materials: Nanotoxicology and beyond

Andrew D. Maynard, David B. Warheit, Martin A. Philbert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

283 Scopus citations


It has long been recognized that the physical form of materials can mediate their toxicity-the health impacts of asbestiform materials, industrial aerosols, and ambient particulate matter are prime examples. Yet over the past 20 years, toxicology research has suggested complex and previously unrecognized associations between material physicochemistry at the nanoscale and biological interactions. With the rapid rise of the field of nanotechnology and the design and production of increasingly complex nanoscale materials, it has become ever more important to understand how the physical form and chemical composition of these materials interact synergistically to determine toxicity. As a result, a new field of research has emerged-nanotoxicology. Research within this field is highlighting the importance of material physicochemical properties in how dose is understood, how materials are characterized in a manner that enables quantitative data interpretation and comparison, and how materials move within, interact with, and are transformed by biological systems. Yet many of the substances that are the focus of current nanotoxicology studies are relatively simple materials that are at the vanguard of a new era of complex materials. Over the next 50 years, there will be a need to understand the toxicology of increasingly sophisticated materials that exhibit novel, dynamic and multifaceted functionality. If the toxicology community is to meet the challenge of ensuring the safe use of this new generation of substances, it will need to move beyond "nano" toxicology and toward a new toxicology of sophisticated materials. Here, we present a brief overview of the current state of the science on the toxicology of nanoscale materials and focus on three emerging toxicology-based challenges presented by sophisticated materials that will become increasingly important over the next 50 years: identifying relevant materials for study, physicochemical characterization, and biointeractions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S109-S129
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue numberSUPPL.1
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Biointeractions
  • Biokinetics
  • Dose
  • Engineered nanomaterials
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nanotoxicology
  • Physicochemical characterization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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