Study from LNBE on nanotoxicity issues published by Frontiers in Chemistry, top-rated international journal

The Frontiers in Chemistry has published a study performed by researchers from the Laboratory of Nano-Bioengineering (LNBE) of NRNU MEPhI in collaboration with their colleagues from the University of Reims, France; University of Tübingen, Germany; and Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, Russia (Sukhanova, A., Poly, S., Bozrova, S., Lambert, E., Ewald, E., Molinari, M., Karaulov, A.V., Nabiev, I. Nanoparticles with a specific size and surface charge promote disruption of the secondary structure and amyloid-like fibrillation of human insulin under physiological conditions. doi: 10.3389/fchem.2019.00480).

The study deals with nanotoxicity, a problem that has become urgent now that the prospect arises of using fluorescent nanocrystals (quantum dots) in medicine as components of diagnostic and therapeutic nanosystems. Nanotoxicity is one of the main problems precluding the introduction of nanoparticles into the body of a patient. Its solution would, in particular, take cancer diagnosis and treatment to a whole new level.

One of the causes of potential "molecular" toxicity of nanoparticles is their interaction with proteins leading to an altered conformation of the biological molecules. As a result, the function of the protein (e.g., and enzyme or a hormone) is disturbed, and, in addition, an autoimmune response occurs.

The authors of the published study analyzed how the nanoparticles' toxic effect depends on their size and surface charge under physiological conditions. They found that the toxicity depended much more on the nanoparticle size and charge than on their chemical composition. Moreover, it turned out that the degree of nanoparticle's toxicity could be controlled by varying their size and surface charge. This task has been solved by the authors. It has been demonstrated that technologies developed in LNBE, Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, and collaborating organizations make it possible to either increase or almost entirely cancel the toxicity of nanoparticles of any chemical composition, irrespective of their structure.


Figure 1. The time course of the interaction between insulin and quantum dots imaged by atomic force microscopy.

The Frontiers in Chemistry publishes breakthrough studies in various fields of chemistry, biology, and medicine and at interfaces with other sciences. The journal was founded six years ago and has been included in the first quartile of journals on Chemistry in SJR.


Professor Igor R. Nabiev, Ph.D., D.Sci., leading scientist (

Maria G. Korenkova, director of external relations (

Laboratory of Nano-Bioengineering (LNBE), Moscow Engineering Physics Institute
31 Kashirskoe shosse, 115409 Moscow, Russian Federation

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