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Biological Sciences Division

August 2016

Brian Thrall Honored in NIEHS Feature for PNNL Nanotoxicology Work

Brian Thrall


That was the basic message of an Aug. 22 feature story published by the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIEHS) about the work of Brian D. Thrall and his PNNL colleagues. Brian manages the Health Impacts and Exposure Science group in the Biological Sciences Division and directs the laboratory's NIEHS-funded Center for Nanotoxicology.

NIEHS, the environmental research arm of the National Institutes of Health, publishes a "Success Stories" series about outstanding research directions its grantees pursue. In this case, it was Thrall's work on the potential health effects of engineered nanomaterials (ENM), so tiny that they are typically one-thousandth the width of a human hair. ENM are increasingly used in biomedicine, food packaging, and other industries with direct contact to consumers.

Exactly how ENM reach and affect human cells is little known, so Thrall's multidisciplinary team is ferreting out potential health risks by employing the latest techniques in proteomics, imaging, bioinformatics, and other specialties.

Thrall and his team are going beyond the big issue of oxidative stress and cell death to pursue the effects of ENM at low levels - what Thrall refers to as "the early targets and downstream impacts of oxidative stress."

They developed and have applied quantitative redox proteomics, a novel technique that identifies changes in cellular proteins with enhanced specificity and sensitivity. The feature pointed to "technical innovations" led by PNNL's Wei-Jun Qian.

Present work by the group is focused on testing a broader range of ENM for toxicity potential and on research towards a future predictive nanotoxicology framework.

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