Dr. Peter Wick, EMPA


Nanoparticle-cell interactions: Why focus on nanomaterial safety issues?


Engineered nanomaterials (NMs) have outstanding properties, raising high expectations for a lot of potential applications including medical use. However, despite this excitement in the scientific community, translation is still suffering. Safety concerns and associated socioeconomic uncertainties are imposing significant hurdles to effective translation of nano-enabled products.
Nanosafety research is dedicated to support the safe development of nanotechnology and identifies possible adverse effects of new NM as early as possible to avoid economic and societal drawbacks.
To keep pace with the nano-enabled development, a reliable, cost- and time-effective, rapid and mechanistic-based assessment strategy is needed, replacing current conventional phenomenological testing. Today’s in vitro technology, providing human-based cellular models, may cover this need. The aim of this contribution is to present the current changes in toxicology strategies, the extent to which in vitro models have achieved acceptance, and how the relevance of these models can further be improved using examples of selected nanoparticles.


Dr Peter Wick is Head of Particles-Biology Interaction Research Laboratory at Empa since 2010. He studied molecular and cellular biology and received in 2002 his PhD at the University of Fribourg. His research interest focuses on the detailed mechanistic understanding of nanomaterials uptake, accumulation, transport, and effect on different types of cells or entire barrier tissues. He is the author of around 130 publications in the field of nanosafety and is a member of various advisory boards.