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Home > ARRA Stories > $1 Million Study of Inhaling Carbon Nanotubes Funded by Federal Stimulus
$1 Million Study of Inhaling Carbon Nanotubes Funded by Federal Stimulus

October 28, 2009

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Researchers at UC Davis have received a $1 million grant from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, or federal stimulus, to study the health effects of breathing a ubiquitous substance used in everything from bicycles to electronics.

Called carbon nanotubes, its molecules are one-to-three nanometers — or a billionth of a meter — in diameter. They have a variety of uses in manufacturing because of their strength and electrical conductivity.

"The concern with carbon nanotubes is that they're incredibly small tubes with properties similar to asbestos fibers," said grant recipient Kent Pinkerton, a professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine at UC Davis.

Carbon nanotubes molecules are shaped like rolled-up chicken wire. They are made using iron as a catalyst to form their unique structures. Pinkerton has postulated that the iron bound to the surface of the nanotubes creates adverse health effects. He said the study will be conducted by creating an aerosol of these materials and examining how breathing it affects the lungs of rats.

"What happens is you have these mesh-like tubes decorated with iron on their surface. We hypothesize that iron creates free radicals that damage the membranes and DNA of the cell," Pinkerton said.

UC Davis School of Medicine is among the nation's leading medical schools, recognized for its specialty-and primary-care programs.The school offers combined medical and master's degree programs in public health, business administration, and rural health, as well as a combined medical and doctoral degree for physician scientists interested in addressing specific scientific, social, ethical and political challenges of health care. Along with being a leader in health care research, the school is known for its commitment to people from underserved communities and a passion for clinical care.

This article originally appeared on the UC Davis Medical Center website. Reposted with permission.

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