Scientists are developing a “test-tube gut and liver” as an ethical alternative to animal testing for the nanotechnology industry.
Experts working on the project, called InLiveTox, will be at an international nanotoxicology conference at Edinburgh Napier University on 2-4 June.
The three-year £2m project involves experts from around the world.
They are developing a way of testing the toxicity of ingested nanoparticles that does not involve using animals.
Instead, a ‘test-tube gut and liver’ will emulate the response of cells and tissues to ingestion of the tiny particles.
Scientists believe that nanotechnology, the use of particles a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair, is one of the most important technologies of the 21st Century.
It promises new materials with enhanced properties which could perform a variety of roles, including cancer treatment in drugs, stain resistance in clothes and preservatives in food.
While there are clear benefits, concerns remain about their safe use.
Dr Gary Hutchison, Edinburgh Napier’s centre for nano safety’s acting director, said: “Given the widespread use of nanomaterials in a variety of everyday products, it is essential for us to fully understand them and their potential impacts.
“We are working with other European specialists on the InLiveTox project to develop a viable, effective alternative to using animals in such testing.”